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HUMOR AND PATHOS.
TEN WISE MEN
AND SOME MORE
WM. LIGHTFOOT VISSCHER.
Profusely illustrated from paintings by J. Harrison Mills;
drawings by Wetherbee and De Ball, and
photographs by Gibson, Sykes & Fowler;
CHICAGO, ILL. ;
AT WELL PRINTING AND BINDING CO
By Atwell Printing and Binding Co,
LIBRARY of CONGRESS
Two Copies Received
APR 9 WB
_ Copyright tntry
CLttSS CC- XXc. flo
COPY ST. v
CHAPTER I. Page
George Denison Peentice 13
Henry Faxon, a Humorist and Poet 33
Artemus Ward, Exhibitor of Moral Wax
Alphonso Minor Griswold, the Fat Con-
Eugene Field, the Children's Poet 67
Edgar Wilson Nye, known as "Bill" 87
George Wilbur Peck, Father of "Peck's Bad
Boy" l 109
Opie Read, a Famous Novel Writer 121
Robert Love TJylor, Governor and Senator. . 145
Benjamin Franklin King, the Michigan
Some More . . ; 176
During forty odd years of constant newspaper
work in southern and western regions of this
republic, with occasional journeyings to the north
and east and some trips elsewhere, this writer
has met and made friends with a "right smart
chance" of people. Among these were several men
who have earned and received international fame
as humorists. Concerning these last I will write
in this book, if my lamp holds out to burn until the
manual and mental labor can be performed, and
it will be a labor of love. I shall write particularly
of ten humorists, living here or gone beyond, who
have been, and are, my warm, personal friends.
Incidentally there will be some account of other
humorists of more or less fame whom I have met
casually, or have known through the free-masonry
of journalistic brotherhood, and who have been
associated with the "Ten Wise Men" in ways that
have made them necessary to this history.
In preparing this book, no desire to shine from
reflected greatness has entered the work by the
slightest hope or thought, but in planning its
manner I have decided that the sanest method will
be to work in chronological sequence, as to my
own acquaintance with these men and my conse-
quent knowledge of them. I shall write with an
aim to avoid the ego, even at the expense of now
and then leaving out a good story in which my
own personality would be involved.
All true humorists are full of purest pathos. I
have seen some of them so full of other things that
one would wonder how they could hold anything
else. But they did.
vi F R E F A C E
It is true that once in a while, springing out
like the jack-in-the-box, comes a coarse and con-
ceited clown, literary mountebank and butting-in
buffoon who is mistaken by himself and a few oth-
ers for a humorist. He and his audience laugh
with his breaks, just as they would at a "slap-
stick" comedian falling over a bench.
Tailings from such a lead run high in vulgarity
and very low in anything commendable when
tested under proper assay.
The sudden to come and quick to quit humorist,
of the "slap-stick" quality is frequently used
temporarily, under high finance pressure, to utter
funny brays at persons and things — and persons
are sometimes only things — that may deserve such
cruel and unusual punishment. For this he may
win from better folks the same sort of gratitude
that a lady gave to a profane hack-driver who ef-
ficiently "cussed" a departing train that both had
missed. She couldn't manipulate such able-bodied
words herself, but she felt that the man was do-
ing something like justice to the subject, and when
he had finished pouring vocabulated brimstone into
that train, she said with decided warmth and a
sigh of relief, "Thank you, sir."
Men who indulge in the brutal wit referred to,
merely and simply do the dirty work, which you
would prefer having some one else perform, and
that kind of humor will not stand the test of a
time beyond the occasion which brought it forth.
Such a man may be a coarse wit, and sharp and
smart in his way, but he is not a humorist.
True humor is gentle and broad and kind and
liberal, and it will lend you a dollar and a half;
and it is so near of kin to pathos that the two
blend together like the tints of the rainbow, and
so imperceptibly that, like the rainbow's causes,
you find the sun of your smiles shining through
the showers of your tears.
The man who laughs is the man who weeps,
when affected by that which is pathetic, or when
tears should come by sympathy. The jolly good
fellow is always your best neighbor, and you feel
more like borrowing his spade, or his frying pan,
or his morning paper, than you would that of the
grim old curmudgeon who is fenced in by his own
dignity, which is generally the briar hedge of
The happy-hearted man is the good Samaritan
who dresses your wounds and pours healing balm
upon them, while the haughty priest and the Levite
pass by on the other side.
Of course there is not always pathos in all
humor, but the men who write humor are gener-
ally tender-hearted and frequently broke, and there
is pathos in being broke until one gets used to it;
then it becomes a standing joke, but a very serious
one. After a while he gets rich on the principle —
and interest — that "when things are at their worst
they mend," and generally as soon as a man gets
rich he quits being a humorist and loses his pathos.
Nearly all true humorists are also poets. Many
of them may not write any poetry in metrical
verse, but they think and say poetic things and
know good poetry when they see it. Josh Billings
has said that he never saw a fine poem but he felt
that if he had been going to write poetry he would
have written that kind. Indeed, many a poet has
viii P R E F A C E
lived and died who never wrote a line, in the same
"Many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark, unfathom'd caves of ocean bear;
Pull many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its fragrance on the desert air."
"Billy" Manning, once a famous minstrel, now
gone over to the other side, was one of the most
tender-hearted and genial of men, and, unlike the
majority of his professional brethren, he had
some original humor — spontaneous wit — which did
not come from ancient almanacs or newspaper
paragraphs. He was not forced to depend upon
his memory for his funny things. "While he was
on his deathbed, in the last stages of consumption,
"Uncle Dick" Hooley, then a well known theatrical
manager of Chicago, called on Manning and the
two had a long talk together reminiscensing about
the stage. In their conversation they spoke of
Dan Bryant, another famous minstrel, who had
died a few weeks before, and who had been an
intimate of both Hooley and Manning. Then the
conversation took another turn, and "Uncle Dick,"
wishing, perhaps, to flatter Manning a little on the
condition of his health, having in mind the fact
that consumptives seldom think they are going to
die of that disease, asked Manning if he had made
his engagements for the coming season.
"Oh, yes!" was the reply in a husky voice.
"Where do you think you will work?" queried
the old man.
With a twinkle in his eye, and something of a
return of his old-time jollity, the dying minstrel
"I guess I'll go on tne other end with Dan."
There was humor and pathos and poetry in that.
Humorous writers "began work in this world at
a time "whereof the memory of man runneth not
to the contrary." There can be no doubt that Job
was a humorist. But in all the periodical literature
printed in English of the century ending about
fifty years ago, the mind reverts to no writer
tnereof who tickled the ribs of the public a great
deal except Tom Hood and Douglas Jerrold.
In a general way the British comic publication
has been exceedingly melancholy., In the language
of Bill Nye, "The average English joke has its
peculiarities. A sort of mellow distance; a kind
of chastened reluctance; a coy and timid, yet
trusting, though evanescent intangibility, that soft-
ly lingers in the troubled air and lulls the tired
senses to a dreamy rest, like the subdued murmur
of a hoarse burro about nine miles up the gulch.
In fact, English humor is like a sore toe. It makes
you glad when you get over it. It is like having
the smallpox, because if you live through it you
are not likely to have it again."
However, within the last half century, the broad,
exaggerative style of American newspaper humor
was planted and it has run riot ever since. Indeed
there is a sort of itch for humor, that seems to be
catching, and it has set a great many to scratch-
ing. It is one phase of cacoethes scribendi. Nearly
every amateur scribbler sends things to the news-
papers which he says are funny. Generally the
editor that receives them is quite grateful for the
information, as he would never have known that
they were funny had not the writer told him so.
The men who prepare the humorous pabulum
that is intended to gratify the public appetite for
the kind of fun under consideration, generally do
their work while the other part of the world is
asleep. Those who know how to dish up the real
thing, frequently, after a long ana faithful service,
finding that they have acquired the blessings of
good conscience and competency, allow humor to
take the reins and they take rest and comfort — as
in the rythmic story of
KATY AND TED.
Arrah! Katie's a rogue, it is true,
And her eyes like the skies are so blue,
And her dimples so swate, and her ankles so
She dazed and she bothered me too.
Wan mornin' we wint for a ride,
Phwen demure as a bride be my side,
The darlint she sat, wid the wickedest hat
'Neath a purty girl's chin iver tied.
Thin I sat jist as mute as the dead,
Till she said, wid a toss of her head,
"If I'd known that today ye'd have nothing to
I'd a gone wid my cousin instead."
Thin I felt meself grow very bold,
For I knew she'd not scold if I told
Of the love in me heart that wad niver depart,
Tho' I grew to be wrinkled and old.
An I said: If I dared to do so,
I'd let go of the baste an' I'd throw
Both arms round her waist an' be taking a taste
Of thim lips that were tazin' me so.
Thin she blushed a more illigant red,
An' she said, widout raisin' her head,
An' her eyes looking down, 'neath her lashes so
"Wad ye like me to drive, Misther Ted?"
GEO. D. PRENTICE.
TEN WISE MEN AND SOME MORE
GEORGE DENISON PRENTICE.
At the close of the Civil War, in 1865, a twenty-
year-old boy who had seen three years of service
at the front, was in Louisville, just mustered out
of the army and looking for something to do
whereby to earn a livelihood.
This boy had written some letters, while in the
army, to the Louisville Journal, which had been
printed, and he innocently thought that perhaps
he had made such an impression upon George D.
Prentice, famous then as the editor of that news-
paper, that he might obtain a place as associate
editor, or something of that sort.
It happened, however, that just then Mr. Pren-
tice had all the associate editors he cared to have,
and it also happened that Mr. Prentice's amanuen-
sis was engaged, just then seeing what he could
do to absorb the output of Kentucky's justly cele-
brated liquid staple. Thus it further happened
that when the young ex-soldier applied at the
Journal office for employment the man at the desk,
after some questioning as to the applicant's capa-
bilities, told him that he could go on as Mr. Pren-
Now, this ex-soldier was not in the least in-
formed as to what an amanuensis was, but de-
clared his entire willingness to be anything that
involved writing fcr the paper. The man at the
desk informed the newspaper recruit that writing
for the paper was exactly what the amanuensis
would be required to do, and, moreover, he would
write the leading editorials. And that was exactly
what he did. He wrote them at Mr. Prentice's
The new amanuensis was introduced to Mr.
Prentice immediately, and the great wit, poet and
14 TEN WISE MEN
political writer declared, in his remarkably candid
and impulsive way, that he liked the looks of the
young fellow and they prepared to begin work at
Just then, however, there came a rap at the
door and Mr. Prentice said: "See who is there
and if he looks respectable admit him."
The door being opened, there stood an exceed-
ingly handsome man. He appeared to be about
twenty-seven years old; his hair was dark and
clustered in curls upon his shapely head. He was
richly dressed, but not fashionably — he wore the
blue, broadcloth, swallow-tail coat of half a cen-
tury before, with the smooth and shiny brass but-
tons of that time, a buff vest of some soft and
graceful material, doeskin trousers, patent leather
shoes, and in his hand, at that moment, he held
his black slouch hat. The card that he gave to
the amanuensis bore, in blue or red pencil, the
Latin words, "Civis Americanus Sum," and the
name printed on it was "George Francis Train."
Mr. Train was at that time traveling over the
country with Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Cady Stan-
ton, Anna Dickenson and other woman suffrage
advocates, making a crusade in that behalf
Being presented to Mr. Prentice, Train, for the
slightest part of an instant, exhibited his astonish-
ment at the appearance of the man before him.
Prentice was then about sixty-one years of age.
His hair was iron-gray and fell in almost a leonine
mass upon his shoulders. His beard was six or
eight inches long and was wrapped, three or four
inches from the end, above, in a wisp, with a cot-
ton string to keep it out of his way. He wore a
torn woolen jacket; his vest and shirt front were
stained with tobacco; his trousers were frayed at
the bottom and his feet were in slip-shod shoes.
But he had keen dark eyes, that were shelved over
by a high and bulging forehead. His smile was
kindly and reassuring, and his voice was low and
gentle, but somewhat nasal and piping.
AND SOME MORE 15
Prentice and Train talked pleasantly together a
few minutes and then Train withdrew. As soon
as he was gone, Mr. Prentice said to his
"Write. I desire to dictate a paragraph con-
cerning Mr. Train."
This old editor always began his paragraphs
with what in printer parlance is a "fist," — a little
cut of a hand with the index finger pointing — and
he called out his punctuation points as he pro-
ceeded. The new amanuensis wrote rapidly and
this was the way he took Prentice's dictation in
that first paragraph :
"Fist. A locomotive that has run off of the
track, comma, turned upside down, comma, with
the cow-catcher buried in a stump and the wheels
making a thousand revolutions a minute. Full
stop. A kite in the air that has lost its tail — dash,
a human novel without a hero — dash, a man who
climbs a tree for a bird's nest, comma, out on a
limb, comma, and in order to get it saws the limb
off between himself and the tree. Full stop. A
ship without a rudder — dash, a clock without hands
— dash, a sermon that is all text — dash, a
pantomime of words — dash, the apothesis of talk,
comma, the incarnation of gab. Full stop. Hand-
some, comma, muscular, comma, as neat as a cat,
comma, clean to the marrow, comma, a judge of
the effect of clothes, comma, frugal in food and
regular only in habits. Full stop. A noonday
mystery — dash, a solved conundrum — dash, a prac-
tical joke in earnest — dash, a cypher hunting for a
figure to pass for something; semi-colon, with the
brains of twenty men in his head, comma, all pull-
ing in different directions; semi-colon, not bad as
to heart, comma, but a man who has shaken hands,
comma, goodbye to reverence. Full stop. This is
George Francis Train. Full stop."
When Mr. Prentice looked over this piece of
manuscript he laughed himself almost into a fit,
and the young ex-soldier wondered if it was a com-
mon thing for great men to laugh so at their own
16 TEN WISE MEN
productions. He learned, afterward, that it was the
verbatim style of the new amanuensis that so
tinkled the old editor, but it impressed Mr. Pren-
tice with the faithfulness of his new man, and in
a little while the young fellow learned to be a
great help to his employer and was associated with
him until his death, as amanuensis, and as a
writer of his own matter on the Journal.
That ex-soldier was this writer.
In Prentice's day there were more alleged
poetesses in his environment than, perhaps, ever
danced attendance upon any other master of the
rhyming art. Prentice was their literary prop.
When he died many a muse fell ill, and the
poetesses that had lived a lie brought no more
harmony from their lyres. Prentice was morbidly
fond of women and . when one who was passably
good-looking came to him with a piece of verse
he at once declared that it was charming, took the
limping rhymes and string-halted rythm, band-
aged and doctored them until they were printable,
and then published them in the Journal with a
beautiful compliment to the alleged authoress.
Then the Journal would have another pet poetess
and Mr. Prentice another pupil in versification.
Many of these acquired some local fame before
Prentice died, but afterward, having no one to
clothe their hideous skeletons of verse in beautiful
garb, they gave over the singing of sweet song.
A few, however, had the divine afflatus and they
wrote on. Among the true poetesses of Prentice's
many proteges were "Amelia," who died before
him; Mrs. Piatt, whose maiden name was Sallie
M. Bryan, and Mrs. Hill, who, in her poetic days
was Agnes Leonard.
The husband of Mrs. Piatt was John J. Piatt, for
a long time Mr. Prentice's amanuensis, then Li-
brarian of the House of Representatives at Wash-
ington ; a poet himself, but one of the sombre kind,
and it was he, associated with Prentice's grandson,
George D. Prentice, Jr., son of Clarence Prentice,
who collated Mr. Prentice's poems and published
AND SOME MORE
them in a book after Prentice's death. It was
Piatt's natural sombreness that led him to suppress
the great wit's humorous efforts in verse. Among
those suppressed was one entitled, "The Captive
Eagle," which was a classic and yet richly amus-
ing. The poem told how an eagle had swooped
down and fastened his talons in a huge fish that
he could not pull out of the water, and as the
fish could not pull the eagle under and the eagle
could not let go, the manner in which that ma-
jestic bird skimmed over the lake riding his dol-
phin charger was exceedingly funny. Too funny
for serious Mr. Piatt.
Hence the persons who wish to see the bright
side of Mr. Prentice's verse must wait until some
one with a jolly side to him has culled from among
the files of the old Louisville Journal the flowers
of Prentice's poetic fancy, and will therefrom make
a bouquet which will have some sprightly jump-
up-johnnies, daffodils, snap-dragons, and that sort
of thing, as well as stately lilies, proud roses,
modest daisies and violets, intertwined with weep-
ing cypress and mourning myrtle.
Prentice was a stickler for truth and he would
not pardon a lapse therein to his best friend of
literary pretensions. He loved Theodore O'Hara,
but one day he quoted a quatrain from O'Hara's
most famous poem, thus:
"On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead."
Then turning to his amanuensis, he said: "I ask
you, as a soldier, did you ever see a tent on a
Prentice came to Kentucky from Connecticut to
write the life of Henry Clay, who was then being
groomed for his first presidential race. The book
was written so well and in so short a time, that,
the author made a strong impression among the
followers of Clay, and they established the Louis-
18 TEN WI SE M EN
ville Journal and turned it over to Prentice. To be
the editor of such a newspaper at such a time — it
was in the '30's — required physical courage, and its
occasional use in personal encounter. In Prentice's
case a strong heart was especially necessary, for it
was common in those days for the rude yeomanry
of the southwest, to entertain the idea that a man
from New England wouldn't fight. The sooner
the yeomanry could be convinced to the contrary
the sooner the necessity for fighting died out. Pren-
tice showed his teeth and his grit quickly, and for
this reason those only who were much in quest of
trouble bothered him after it became known that
he was quite "willinV
During the time that Prentice was writing Clay's
life, at Olympian Springs, in Bath county, Ken-
tucky, and when the former was about twenty-six,
he had gone one morning, as was his custom, to
the woods and a favorite tree where a spring of
cool chalybeate water was. The shotgun that he
always took with him, for use in the chance of a
shot at some object of game, stood against the
tree on the opposite side from where the young man
was busy at his manuscript. Presently a native
put in an appearance. He was an able-bodied
specimen of the Jackson Democracy, with rifle in
hand, and he had an unpleasant look that was not
improved when, in answer to an inquiry for it,
Prentice had given his name. In an insolent tone
the man said:
"You are writin' Clay's life, hain't ye?"
"Yes," was the reply.
"Well, I want you to write my life," said the in-
truder, "an' I want you to do it mighty quick, too.'*
His look was threatening.
Prentice suddenly reached behind the tree and.
snatching his gun, presented it, full cocked, in the
face of his visitor, remarking as he did so: "1
won't write your life, but I don't mind taking it, if
you insist that something shall be done with it."
A grim smile came over the visage of the native,
and after complimenting Prentice for his "game"
AND SOME MORE 19
and having made a sort of apology, declaring that
he had been only joking, he took his departure.
Prentice's frankness was refreshing. Illustra-
tions of his candor are given in the two following
anecdotes. But hundreds more of the same kind
might be truthfully told concerning him.
Will S. Hays, the famous Kentucky song writer,
was in the latter days of the old Journal, river re-
porter for the Democrat. Hays was a very sudden
young man, good-natured, jolly, witty, but lacking
somewhat in reverence, and he had a habit of call-
ing persons old enough to be his grandfather by
their given names. Visiting Prentice one day, as
a fellow poet, after some desultory talk, Hays said:
"I suppose, George, you have seen my last song?"
Prentice looked up at Hays, who was seated
cross-legged on Prentice's table, and with a twinkle
in his expressive eyes quietly replied:
"I hope so, Bill."
"Bill" looked around for a second or two, as if
something had tapped him, and then slid down
the baluster-rail to the front door.
Once when Prentice was coming out of a public
building and through a set of double doors that
swing in and out, a young fellow approaching from
an opposite direction, took the left side, and as
Prentice had, very properly, taken the right side,
the result was both were pushing at the same half
of the doors. Prentice, however, being much the
stronger of the two, gave an impatient and mighty
surge, the door flew open, and the young fellow was
sent sprawling on the floor. Prentice assisted him
to arise and as he did so he said: "My young
friend, I have this piece of advice for you: If you
will always keep to the right, in your way through
life, you will never run against anyone but a fool,
and you need not apologize to him."
Prentice and Horace Greeley were bitter political
enemies and fought each other in their newspapers
nearly all the way through their professional lives,
but there was no personal animosity between them.
Illustrative of this: Once when Greeley came to
20 TEN WI SE MEN
Louisville to lecture, Prentice occupied a chair
near the Tribune sage and listened with wrapt at-
tention to every word that fell from his lips.
Shortly afterward Prentice wrote the following
poem, which explains itself, and which is entitled:
"TO A POLITICAL OPPONENT.
I send thee, Greeley, words of cheer,
Thou bravest, truest, best of men,
For I have marked thy strong career,
As traced by thy own sturdy pen.
I've seen thee struggle with the foes
That dared thee to the desperate fight,
And loved to watch the goodly blows
Dealt for the cause thou deem'st right.
Thou'st dared to stand against the wrong
When others faltered by thy side;
In thy own strength hast dared be strong,
Nor on another's arm relied;
Thy own bold thoughts thou'st dared to think,
Thy own great purposes avowed,
And none have ever seen thee shrink
From the fierce surges of the crowd.
Thou, all unaided and alone.
Did'st take thy way in life's young years,
With no kind hand clasped in thy own,
No gentle voice to soothe thy tears.
But thy high heart no power could tame,
And thou hast never ceased to feel
Within thy veins, a sacred flame
That turned thy iron nerves to steel.
I know that thou art not exempt
From all the weaknesses of earth,
For passion comes to rouse and tempt
The truest souls of mortal birth,
But thou hast well fulfilled thy trust,
In spite of love and hope and fear,
And e'en the tempest's thunder-gust
But clears thy spirit's atmosphere.
AND SOM E MORE 21
Thou still art in thy manhood's prime,
Still foremost 'mid thy fellow men,
Though in each year of all thy time,
Thou hast compressed three score and ten.
Oh! may each blessed sympathy,
Breathed on thee with a tear and sigh,
A sweet flower in thy pathway be,
A bright star in thy clear blue sky."
During the last forty years of Prentice's life he
was afflicted with corea scriptorum, less technically,
scrivener's cramp, more vulgarly, writer's paralysis,
a nervous disease of the fingers caused by exces-
sive writing. But by taking hold of a pencil with
both hands he could with great difficulty write a
few words. Thus he would maKe little memoranda
on the margins of newspapers, and these he would
tear off and deposit in his hat, where he kept a
never-failing supply of suggestions for the terse
and epigrammatic paragraphs for which he was so
famous. In quiet hours he would by the same
laborious process make the framework of his poems
and afterward dictate them to his amanuensis in
"The Closing Year," which was probably Pren-
tice's masterpiece in verse, and which is one of the
finest poems in the language, had doubtless been
framed in the way mentioned above, but the man-
ner in which it came out was unique, to say the
It was New Year's eve and the carriers of the
Journal had no "address" for their patrons for the
day that was to follow, a custom that was old and
in those days of great financial importance to the
boys who delivered the paper to the city subscrib-
ers. This Carriers' Address was always a hand-
somely printed affair that was presented with the
paper once a year and nearly every subscriber gave
to his particular carrier a New Year remembrance
in the shape of a coin. The person who had prom-
ised to furnish the address for the occasion under
consideration had failed and the carriers were in
22 TEN WISE MEN
distress. Mr. Prentice appreciated the situation
and, notwithstanding that his work for the day
was finished and he was about to go home, he said
suddenly to his amanuensis, then the poet, Abe Ful-
kerson, "Write. I will dictate a carriers' address."
Thus "The Closing Year" was produced. Some one
present and in authority, recognizing the strange
beauty of the poem, caused it to be printed on
satin — something quite stunning for those days —
and all Louisville had it the next morning. Many
of the old citizens have it stored away to this day,
faded and time stained, among the treasured
mementoes of an olden time. Following is the
THE CLOSING YEAR.
" 'Tis midnight's holy hour, and silence now
Is brooding like a gentle spirit o'er
The still and pulseless world. Hark! on the winds
The bell's deep tones are swelling; 'tis the knell
Of the departed year. No funeral train
Is sweeping past; yet, on the stream and wood,
With melancholy light, the moonbeams rest,
Like a pale, spotless shroud; the air is stirr'd,
As by a mourner's sigh; and, on yon cloud,
That floats so still and placidly through heaven,
The spirits of the Seasons seem to stand;
Young Spring, bright Summer, Autumn's solemn
And Winter, with his aged locks — and breathe
In mournful cadences, that come abroad
Like the far wind-harp's wild and touching wail,
A melancholy dirge o'er the dead year,
Gone from the earth forever.
AND 80 ME MORE 23
'Tis a time
For memory and for tears. Within the deep,
Still chambers of the heart, a specter dim,
Whose tones are like the wizard voice of Time,
Heard from the tomb of ages, points its cold
And solemn finger to the beautiful
And holy visions, that have pass'd away,
f nd left no shadow of their loveliness
On the dead waste of life. The specter lifts
The coffin lid of Hope, and Joy, and Love,
And, bending mournfully above the pale,
Sweet forms that slumber there, scatters dead
O'er what has pass'd to nothingness.
Has gone, and with it many a glorious throng
Of happy dreams. Its mark is on each brow,
Its shadow in each heart. In its swift course,
It waved its scepter o'er the beautiful,
And they are not. It laid its pallid hand
Upon the strong man; and the haughty form
Is fallen, and the flashing eye is dim.
It trod the hall of revelry, where thronged
The bright and joyous; and the tearful wail
Of stricken ones is heard, where erst the song
And reckless shout resounded. It passed o'er
The battle-plain, where sword, and spear, and
Flashed in the light of midday; and the strength
Of serried hosts is shiver'd, and the grass,
Green from the soil of carnage, waves above
The crush'd and moldering skeleton. It came,
And faded like a wreath of mist at eve;
Yet, ere it melted in the viewless air,
It heralded its millions to their home,
In the dim land of dreams.
24 TEN WISE MEN
Fierce spirit of the glass and scythe! What power
Can stay him in his silent course, or melt
His iron heart to pity! On, still on,
He presses, and forever. The proud bird,
The condor of the Andes, that can soar
Through heaven's unfathomable depths, or brave
The fury of the northern hurricane,
And bathe his plumage in the thunder's home,
Furls his broad wing at nightfall, and sinks down
To rest upon his mountain crag; but Time
Knows not the weight of sleep or weariness;
And Night's deep darkness has no chain to bind
His rushing pinion.
- Revolutions sweep
O'er earth, like troubled visions o'er the breast
Of dreaming sorrow; cities rise and sink
Like bubbles on the water; fiery isles
Spring blazing from the ocean, and go back
To their mysterious caverns; mountains rear
To heaven their bold and blacken'd cliffs, and bow
Their tall heads to the plain; empires rise,
Gathering the strength of hoary centuries,
And rush down, like the Alpine avalanche,
Startling the nations; and the very stars,
Yon bright and glorious blazonry of God,
Glitter awhile in their eternal depths,
And, like the Pleiad, loveliest of their train,
Shoot from their glorious spheres, and pass away
To darkle in the trackless void; yet Tinic,
Time, the tomb-builder, holds his fierce career,
Dark, stern, all pitiless, and pauses not
Amid the mighty wrecks that strew his path,
To sit and muse, like other conquerors,
Upon the fearful ruin he hath wrought."
It has been said of Mr. Prentice that he wrote
verses simply for recreation and that he estimated
lightly his poetic gift. This is a mistake. He
wrote poetry because he loved it and because he
AND SOME MORE 25
couldn't help it And yet, he used to advise young
people not to aspire to do so, "For," said he,
"poetry is the most unmarketable article in all the
booths of vanity fair." It was, however, so deeply
woven in his nature that it became a part of him-
self and ever clung around and about him like the
tendrils of the ivy to the oak. It was to his^ exist-
ence what the dew and the sunshine are to the
flowers. He never wearied talking of the beauties
of nature, and one could sit by him and listen,
spell-bound, when he described the Mammoth Cave,
with its deep chasms, Stygian Pools, awful aisles,
fathomless gulfs, crystal fountains and high-pil-
lared domes, fretted with the semblance of stars
and flowers; of Echo River, that wild and wizard
stream, upon whose dark bosom no star or rainbow
ever glanced its image of love and beauty.
He was a wit and humorist as well as a great
philosopher. He was a living exemplification of
the kinship between humor and pathos.
Prentice had some very unpoetic habits, however,
and his hat was the representative of one of them.
It was an "Old Curiosity Shop." He always had
it about half full of papers and memoranda, and,
as it was a sort of general receptacle, he carried
his spectacles, pocket-knife, scissors, pencils, every-
thing, in it, and I have often seen him, absent-
mindedly, put a well-masticated chew of tobacco
into it, instead of throwing it away.
Why genius should be absent-minded is one of
those things I leave to the learned on the idio-
syncrasies of the human mind; but Mr. Prentice
was very much so. He chewed tobacco, and very
frequently laid his masticated quids on his writing
table or the mantlepiece, and sometimes, as men-
tioned, put them in his hat. He was exceedingly
fond of young animals, and this story will illus-
trate both of these peculiarities in him:
One dark, dreary, dismal and drizzly night in
winter, Charlie Morse, who was then a reporter on
the Journal, brought into the editorial rooms a
poor little kitten he had picked up on the street.
26 TEN WI SE MEN
Its coat was wet and bedraggled from the rain and
begrimed with the filth of the gutter, and it
shivered with cold until the warmth from the
grate, beside which he laid it on a rug, had done
its genial work. Mr. Prentice at once took pity od
the forlorn creature and adopted it for his pet;
and under his kind treatment it soon grew to be
a pretty and saucy one. As the spring days came
it grew in size and beauty, and brought many a
chuckle from the old man's heart, as the kitten
chased its tail among the papers on the exchange
table, or mischievously pawed at the rapidly-going
pencils or pens of the editorial workers.
Every morning Mr. Prentice used to send to
market for some scraps of beef to feed his feline
protege, and often, after cutting off bits with a pair
of scissors and feeding them to the kitten until she
had enough, there would be a big chunk left.
This remaining portion Mr. Prentice would care-
fully wrap up and deposit in the pocket of -the
skirt of his coat. Then he would forget it. In the
warm days this meat would assert itself, and the
old man would come in some fine morning com-
plaining bitterly of the awful odor that pervaded
the atmosphere of the editorial rooms, little dream-
ing that he carried its cause in his pocket. He
would storm about in his feeble way, and give
the janitor metaphoric fits; and that old ebony im-
becile would saturate the sanctum with disinfec-
tant. It was fun to the boys, and they would let
it proceed. Mr. Prentice always wore a little, old,
yarn jacket when at work, and wnen he had doffed
his coat and donned the "wampus," one of the re-
porters would slyly rid the pocket of the nuisance,
and the trouble would discontinue until the next
A great many people unwittingly confuse George
D. Prentice of the Louisville Journal with Sargent
S. Prentiss of Mississippi. Both were natives of
New England and in many points of character they
resemble each other, though they differed as widely
as the poles in a general way.
AND SOME MORE 27
Prentice is often spoken of as a duelist, but I am
quite sure that he never fought a duel, though fre-
quently challenged. He went to Arkansas once in
response to that sort of an invitation, but the affair
was adjusted in a satisfactory way before the prin-
cipals met on the field. He really had a contempt
for the ''code duello."
"I have been credited with being particularly
game," he once said to this writer. "But the fact
is that I am somewhat timid. I knew, however,
when I came to Kentucky, that if I wished to re-
main here that I must display a willingness to
fight, and that sort of show has shielded me from
many a serious difficulty."
Frequently Prentice escaped duels by means of
a joke. Once when he had been invited to make a
target of himself as a matter of "honor," he re-
"It takes only one fool to send a challenge, but
it takes two to fight, and I beg to be omitted from
On another occasion he accepted, and having
choice of weapons, he insisted that each one should
be armed with a cask of whiskey and a straw, and
that each should suck with his straw from his cask
until one should fall and that one should be con-
sidered vanquished and the other's honor satisfied.
Frequently, however, Prentice was suddenly
brought into personal encounter, from which he al-
ways emerged with full credit and even honor to
himself. Once, for instance, a Frankfort editor
fired at him with a pistol, on a Louisville street.
Prentice closed with the man and had him down
with a knife brandished above him. Some by-
standers shouted: "Kill the scoundrel!" "Cut his
head off!" and the like, but Prentice put away the
knife, remarking as he did so: "I cannot kill an
unarmed man," and allowed his foe to arise. The
two afterward became close friends.
In such matters Prentice of Louisville was un-
like Prentiss of Vicksburg, for the latter was nearly
always "spoiling for a fight" and would shoot "at
TEN WISE MEN
the drop of a hat." It is said of him, and with
good warrant, that Prentiss would leave a hand at
a game of poker and go out to exchange shots with
a gentleman who sought that sort of diversion, and
would then come back and take up his cards to
see if he could "open a jack-pot" — whatever that is.
A little while after taking charge of the Journal,
Mr. Prentice was in the fiercest focal fire of a po-
litical battle, and hand to hand with Shadrack
Penn, the editor of the Louisville Advertiser and
the champion of Kentucky Democracy in those
days. Penn's friends expected him to shiver
Prentice's lance in the onset, but the youthful
AND SOME MORE 29
stranger did not hesitate to engage his veteran
antagonist. He said that while he did not desire
strife, he was ready for it, and declared that his
editorial quiver was armed with quills of all sizes,
from those of the humming-bird to those of the
eagle, and made Louisville too torrid for Penn,
who went to St. Louis.
For eleven years these giants of those days
waged their polemic war, and Prentice became
famous throughout the world.
The remarkable purity of his diction, his won-
derful versatility of expression, the attic salt of
his wit, the torturing power of his irony,- his
satirical sarcasm, the terse epigrammatic force
which often enabled him to overthrow an adver-
sary in a single sentence, were too much for Penn
and he left the city. But they parted as friends,
and when Penn went away to St. Louis the tribute
Mr. Prentice paid him was so grand and touching
that it is difficult to conceive of anything more
As an editor, Mr. Prentice wrote in simple and
unmistakable language, sentences that impressed
the appreciative scholar with admiration for their
beauty, the politician and discussion with the
power of his logic, his opponent with awe, and the
multitude with enthusiasm.
His eloquence was as grand and lofty as the
mountains, and as sweeping as the torrent that
dashes through their go'rges.
He grasped his subject with a hand of iron, and
sent his thunderbolts abroad in tones deep and
full of energy and pathos, while the lightnings of
his wit and sarcasm gleamed through it frightfully,
or playfully, or pleasantly.
His humor was as rich and sparkling as the best
champagne, and his satire as keen as the best
Damascus blade. As a poet, he was sublime, for
when in that muse's mood his mind seemed lifted
e'en beyond the highest flight of
30 TEN WISE MEN
"The proud bird,
The condor of the Andes, that can soar
Thro' heaven's unfathomable depths or brave
The fury of the northern hurricane,
And bathe his plumage in thunder's home."
At the time of his birth a furious storm was
raging throughout the country — his life was one
almost continuous storm, and when the golden bowl
was broken and the silver chord unstrung, and
the spirit of the great man took its flight to the
God who gave it, the skies wept rain drops for his
memory — the bleak wintry winds rushed wildly
and sadly by, lending their mournful music to his
La Belle Riviere — the beautiful Ohio — on whose
lovely banks he dwelt, swelled up in awful agony,
and while the country mourned her heaven-gifted
son, the world's constellation of literary stars hid
their twinkling lights behind a cloud of sorrow, as
this companion gem flew from its orbit into the
interminable space of eternity.
Prentice married in 1840, a brilliant belle of the
Blue Grass region, and they had two sons, their
only children, Courtland and Clarence. Courtland,
the eldest, inherited to a great degree, the talents
of his gifted father and gave much promise of be-
coming a man of fame in letters, but he joined the
Confederate army, as an officer, early in the war,
and was killed in a skirmish at Augusta, Ky.,
about two months afterward. Mr. Prentice idol-
ized Courtland and deeply mourned him. Later on,
Clarence joined the Confederate army and gained
the rank of colonel. In a personal rencontre, he
was involved in the killing of a hotel proprietor
at Abingdon, Virginia, and his father was forced
to go to Richmond to exert all the influence he
could bring to bear with the authorities of high
Confederate rank to save Clarence from condign
AND SOME MORE 31
Returning from the war Clarence was admitted
to the bar in Louisville but changed his mind and
studied medicine, in which profession he graduated
but never practiced. Shortly before the elder
Prentice's death Clarence was thrown from a
buggy near his home, west of Louisville, and was
instantly killed. He left a son, George D. Pren-
tice, Jr., whose mother was of the Austrian nobil-
ity. At the time of the elder Prentice's death, this
grandson, was the only living representative of
George D. Prentice's immediate family. He went
into the pratcice of law in San Francisco, with his
grand mother's brother, Col. Calhoun Benham, of
the California metropolis.
When Prentice died he was succeeded on the
Courier-Journal as a paragrapher by John E.
Hatcher, one of the gentlest and most lovable men
I ever knew, and he was as modest as a girl. For
years Hatcher wrote the bright and beautiful,
witty, classic and humorous things for the Courier-
Journal. Long years he hobbled from his home to
his office and back again, asking nothing of the
world further than the elegant living for himself
and wife and daughter that his splendid salary
gave. Hatcher made the most exquisite poetry and
denied that he was a poet, and wrote the most
sparkling humor under the nom de plume of G.
Washington Bricks, but would have considered it
a great joke for any one to have called him a
humorist. Yet his paragraphs were more generally
copied ten years ago than those of any paragrapher
in the United States. His wife and daughter died
six or seven years ago, and broken-hearted and
pining for them, he quickly followed to those fair
meadow lands whose dews are the balsam of
A HUMOKIST AND POET.
Mr. Prentice was much an admirer of Henry
Faxon, who for a short time immediately preced-
ing the Civil War was associated with him as a
special writer on the Louisville Journal. Faxon
went from Louisville to Columbia Tennessee, and
was the editor there, for a little while, of a weekly
newspaper, but he really belonged to Buffalo, N. Y.
The father of the Faxons with whom this chron-
icle has to do was a printer, and he had nine sons,
all of them disciples of the black art that is gen-
erally associated with a devil — an innocent sort of
a devil he is, however, whose greatest fault is that
he usually carries away on his face and hands
more ink than his employer can afford to lose.
Of the Faxon brothers was Charles, who was
famous in Louisville newspaperdom as the editor
of the Courier before its consolidation with the
Journal, and who is remembered by folks of his
ilk in the sixth decade of the 19th century as
being not only a brilliant political writer, but
possessed of a cheeriness of disposition that was
perennial, so to speak, and he always wore a
"plug" hat that looked as if he had inherited it,
and to which adversity quickly brought the appear-
ance of a disabled concertina.
Another of the brothers was Len.,.who published
newspapers for twenty-five or thirty years at
Paducah, Ky., and Cairo, 111., and who has been
mayor of each of these cities and held many high
places of trust in the "Eden" of Dickens, the capi-
tal of the modern Egypt.
Henry Faxon, who was familiarly called "Hank,"
was a man of innumerable accomplishments. He
could speak many tongues. He was an excellent
electrician, far ahead of the majority of them in
34 TEN WISE MEN
his day, and to him Professor Morse owed much of
his success in the work of perfecting the electric
telegraph. He was a brilliant musician, had a
rich singing voice, and frequently delighted his
company with songs that he sung to his own
accompaniment on the pianoforte. He was a fine
draughtsman and cartoonist and often made
pictures with his pencil that were full of the jolli-
est fun. In newspaper work he wrote with a
humor that has never been excelled, and in the
broad exaggerative style which was not widely
appreciated in his day. Indeed, he was the orig-
inator of that class of newspaper humor, and was
a brilliant poet withal. But he signed nothing.
Among Faxon's army of bohemian friends, who
were for the most part his disciples, were Charles
F. Browne (Artemus Ward), Mortimer Thomp-
son, (P. Q. Philander Doesticks), A. Miner Gris-
wold, (The Fat Contributor), and Lieutenant
Derby, (John Phoenix). Of these and many other
humorists of that day, it is asserted that they
took their literary color from Faxon, and they were
the first of American Newspaper humorists.
Faxon's delightfully merry stuff was printed and
reprinted without credit other than to the news-
papers in which he wrote. Having published no
book and having made no' compilation of his work
or other effort to save his personality in literature,
his fame is circumscribed.
Withal, Faxon was not without failings, and
among these was a spirit that sought revenge with
steady vindictiveness, when he felt himself
wronged. He had a courtliness of bearing that
made him at home among princes and lordlings,
and yet there was an air of good-fellowship about
him that was as simple as his humblest friend.
A famous French actress of half a century ago
came to New York to make a start on an American
tour. Faxon was editing a newspaper in Troy and
he called on the lady. She and her manager
received the editor in a cavalierish way, and,
speaking to each other in French, made some
AND SOME MORE 35
uncomplimentary remarks concerning "American
deadheads." They offered him some tickets to
their entertainment, however, which he refused,
and at the same time horrified them by speaking
in their own tongue. Nevertheless he attended the
woman's performances in New York and lam-
pooned her in the press of that city, to which he
had free access; he followed her to Philadelphia
and continued to ridicule her until she became
"laughing stock." Then she went back to' Prance
and died of a broken heart, or a broken fortune —
same thing for her heart was in her portmonnaie.
After learning his trade as a printer in his
father's shop, and acquiring a wonderful knowl-
edge of electricity, for those days, Henry Faxon
went to college at Yale and graduated there. Dur-
ing his course he was a teacher in that institution
of the science of electricity, and helped in that
way to pay his college expenses. After that he
was with Professor Morse several years, in Wash-
ington, assisting him in perfecting the art of teleg-
raphy, in which he was an expert, and along in the
1840's was frequently consulted upon knotty points
in electricity. Faxon was the first man that ever
sent a dispatch without an instrument.
Once, while on a railway train, somewhere along
the New York and Erie Railway, an accident had
occurred, and Faxon took the wire and telegraphed
for help by striking the end of the wire against a
wet place on the ground. This was about 1845.
It was Henry Faxon who caused Blondin to
achieve the first great performance in ropewalk-
ing that gave him a world-wide fame in, and on,
his particular line. Faxon induced Blondin to
walk across Niagara River at the falls the first
time the rope-walker attempted that seemingly
perilous feat, which he performed so many times
afterward and with such variations that the thing
finally grew to be commonplace enough.
Faxon was the editor of a little newspaper at
Buffalo at the time under consideration — the sum-
mer of 1859. A circus had become stranded in
36 TEN WI SE MEN
Buffalo, and with it was this Frenchman, Emile
Gravelot Blondin, who came to this country in
1855 for William Niblo, with the original Ravel
Troupe, and he was part owner of the broken cir-
cus. Faxon took some sort of a fancy to Blondin,
or at any rate sympathized with him in his dis-
tress, and one morning, without having consulted
Blondin, Faxon printed an article in his news-
paper, with sensational headlines, to the effect
that Blondin would walk across Niagara on a tight
The Frenchman was horrified, and, finding
Faxon, he exclaimed:
"Ah, vat ees zis, Monsieur Faxon, zat you say in
your paper — Blondin vill walk Niagara across on
ze tight rope? You haf me ruin!"
"Can't you do it?" Faxon inquired.
"Oui; I could walk ze Niagara across; but ze
arrangemong — vat you call? ze paraphernalia — zat
cost some five, six, seven hoondred dollare, and I
have not one dollare."
"Oh! don't bother about that," said Faxon, "I
will procure the paraphernalia." And he did.
On June 30th, 1859, Blondin performed the feat
mentioned. The thing was widely advertised;
great excursions were organized of persons who
went to see the performance, and Blondin's fame
and fortune were made. It is not recorded, how-
ever, that Faxon ever even so much as got repaid
for the "paraphernalia."
Many times afterward Blondin walked across
Niagara on the tight rope; he carried a man across
on his shoulders, pushed a loaded wheelbarrow,
and did all sorts of tricks out there over the roar-
ing, foaming current, and did similar feats
throughout the country.
While in Chicago, at McVicker's Theater Blondin
once told the writer of an incident connected with
his Niagara performances. He said:
-Ze people at Niagara one time present me a
vera beautiful medal of gold, set wiz diamond, and
when I was carry ze man on my shoulders across
AND SOME MORE 37
Niagara I wear ze medal. One time when we were
'bout half way 'cross, I think I feel ze medal slip,
as eef he was falling to ze watare below. My first
impulse was to catch at ze medal, him to save, but
I think bettare and say to myself, bettare let ze
medal go zan ze man. Zat man nevare know, to
zees day, how near he come go to ze bottom. But
after all, ze medal not slip, and him I have yet.
Of course, I could ze rope have caught and save
myself had I lose ze ballance, but ze man on my
shoulder, he would not have seen his home some
Faxon was the happiest when doing something
to relieve the distress of another, and he was,
moreover, greatly given to practical joking. These
two characteristics in him produced a hoax once
that became famous at the time, and it was near
about the same time that he caused Blondin to
walk across Niagara.
A little south of Buffalo is a beautiful sheet of
water called Silver Lake, and it had some mys-
teries about it. In its center was a deep place that
soundings could not fathom. Its waters were as
cold as ice and there were no fish or other living
creatures in it. On its banks a man had built a
fine hotel, hoping to make it an attractive resort,
but guests were few and tribulation was plenty.
Bankruptcy threatened, and the landlord told his
troubles to Faxon, who had run down there for a
few days' rest. Faxon liked his landlord. They
had hobnobbed together and were congenial spirits.
Faxon confessed to his landlord that he had been
noticing the drift of things and that he had fixed
up a plan to fill the hotel if the landlord would
enter into his scheme. He unfolded, and the land-
lord somewhat hesitatingly fell in with the plot.
Faxon went back to Buffalo and secured the serv-
ices of another genius — a mechanical genius — a
young German, whose only wealth was his inge-
nuity and a little tinsmithery. Faxon told him
what he wanted. The German jumped at the idea.
He constructed a great tin or zinc monster like
TEN WISE MEN
SILVER LAKE SNAKE.
AND SOME MORE 39
a sea serpent. It had an immense and fearful red
month, from which darted a forked tongue, and
its huge jaws worked like an alligator's. This
thing was anchored near the deepest place in the
lake and was so arranged with pulleys and tiller
ropes, or something of that nature, that being
worked from a secret sub-cellar in the hotel, the
monster could be made to dart its head and hideous
length up out of the lake and lash the water with
its tail until it would send big ripples to' the
shores. Its movements were so rapid and eccen-
tric that the artificiality of the thing could not
be detected, and it had no regular hours for ap-
pearance, but was a sort of a go-as-you-please ser-
Faxon wrote blazing columns in the Republic
about it. The newspapers all over the country
had many lengths of that snake in them, in word-
paintings and other pictures. The hotel became
crowded, and the landlord put up sheds and tents
on his premises and filled them with guests, and
he coined money, so to speak. People went there
and camped on the shores of the lake.
And at last Horace Greeley went. He hired a
boat and some men to row it and went out on the
lake to see the snake. The monster began to slash
about down in the deep, green waters and roar with
that capacious and carmine mouth extended until
Horace could nearly see its digestive apparatus,
whereat he yelled to his oarsmen in the language
of the Sunday School song, "Pull for the shore,
When he returned home he filled columns of the
Tribune with that snake, and savants and scien-
tists of old and new world schools trekked to Silver
^Lake. The monstrous serpent was a wonder and a
mystery for a great many more than seven days,
but at last, in a specially strenuous flop one day,
the apparatus broke and that old tin serpent
turned its white belly up to the sun and the Silver
Lake snake business exploded.
40 TEN WISE MEN
Meantime Faxon had gone home filled with the
satisfaction of having done a kind thing for a
friend, of having succeeded in another sensation
and of having contributed somewhat to the gayety
of the season. The landlord had become as rich as
a king and could have afforded to give the hotel
away, but he used it for many years as a country
seat and looked complacently at his fortune as a
monument to the credulity of mankind and the wit
of Hank Faxon.
"When the Troy and Montreal telegraph line was
built the parties who constructed it were not able
to run it. Faxon and another newspaper man, L.
W. Cutler, got possession of it. They bought the
instruments, which were the old-fashioned House
style of printing machines, and they got the lines
on credit. For a while they sailed high, but the
enterprise failed, and so did Faxon and his partner.
In writing poetry Faxon would work up a stanza
and print it. If the bit happened to please him he
would add other stanzas to it, from time to time,
and reprint the whole. Occasionally, however, he
would write an entire poem at once. He wrote
"Beautiful Snow," a fact which all of his old
friends are aware of, although there has been so
much absurd talk about it that the pretty little
thing long ago became a sort of "guy" among
journalists. Mr. Prentice, who was a great admirer
of Faxon, had the original manuscript of the poem
for a long time, and I frequently saw it, years
before there were any claimants for it other than
Faxon's friends for himself, until after Faxon's
death. Some rhyming charlatan has, since that
event, published a book of verse with "The
Beautiful Snow" on its first page, and called it
"Beautiful Snow and Other Poems," by himself,
but the remainder of the book, with its bad rhyme*
and rocky rhythm, gives distinct denial to his
assertion, prima facie.
Sometimes, years ago, the authorship of "Beauti-
ful Snow" was attributed to Dora Shaw — doubtless
in jest at first — for there was much in the career
AND SOME MORE 41
of Dora that would have suggested the motif of the
poem. She wrote very pretty verses, and was an
actress of more than ordinary talent. One day
Miss Shaw was in the editorial rooms of the Louis-
ville Journal, and Mr. Prentice said to he*r: "Dora,
why do you claim Hank Faxon's poem?" She
replied: "My dear sir, I never did such a thing.
I have been credited with the authorship of
'Beautiful Snow/ and as I am before the public,
and such an attribution was valuable to me, I
never took the pains to deny it."
Years ago this writer secured and published a
number of affidavits concerning Faxon's author-
ship of this poem and printed them in a New York
newspaper, and proved beyond peradventure the
truthfulness of these statements. The journal
in which the affidavits were printed, commented
editorially, upon their subject matter and declared
them, and the corroborative facts adduced, to be
evidence of Faxon's authorship of the poem that
was distinctly decisive.
Following are the lines of "Beautiful Snow" as
originally written and printed by Henry Faxon:
Oh the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below!
Over the house-tops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet,
Beautiful snow! it can do no wrong.
Flying to kiss a fair lady's cheek;
Clinging to lips in a frolicksome freak.
Beautiful snow from the heaven above,
Pure as an angel and fickle as love.
42 TEN WISE MEN
Oh the snow, the beautiful snow!
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go!
Whirling about in its maddening fun,
It plays in its glee with every one.
It lights up the face and sparkles the eye:
And even the dog with a bark and a bound
Snaps at the crystals that eddy around.
The town is alive and its heart in a glow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.
How the wild crowd goes swaying along,
Hailing each other with humor and song.
How the gay sledges like meteors flash by, —
Bright for a moment, then lost to the eye!
Dashing, they go
Over the crest of the beautiful snow:
Snow so pure when it falls from the sky,
To be trampled in mud by the crowd rushing by;
To be trampled and tracked by the thousands of
Till it blends with the horrible filth of the street.
Once I was as pure as the snow, — but I fell;
Fell like the snow flakes, from heaven — to hell;
Fell to be tramped as the filth of the street;
Fell to be scoffed, to be spit on and beat.
Dreading to die,
Selling my soul to whoever would buy,
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,
Hating the living and fearing the dead.
Merciful God! have I fallen so low
And yet I was once like the beautiful snow!
AN D SOME M ORE 43
Once I was fair as the beautiful snow,
With an eye like its crystals, a heart like its glow;
Once I was loved for my innocent grace, —
Flattered and sought for the charm of my face.
God and myself I lost by my fall.
The veriest wretch that goes shivering by
Will take a wide sweep, lest I wander too nigh;
For of all that is on or about me, I know,
There is nothing that's pure but the beautiful snow.
How strange it should be that this beautiful snow
Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to' go!
How strange it would be, when the night comes
If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain:
Too wicked for prayer, too weak for my moan
To be heard in the crash of the crazy town,
Gone mad in its joy at the snow's coming down;
To lie and to die in my terrible woe,
With a bed and a shroud of beautiful snow!
Henry Faxon enlisted in the Union army at the
beginning of the Civil War; was seriously wounded
early in the conflict, and was discharged from the
service. Notwithstanding that he worked at jour-
nalism many months after leaving the army, he
never fully recovered from his wound, and it even-
tually caused his end, about the close of the war.
Henry Faxon was a poet, a wit, a journalist, a
scientist, a scholar and a patriot. All these in a
Artemus Ward — Exhibitor of Moral Wax- Works.
One night in the old Louisville Journal days —
that's right, too — one night in those days— it may
sound contradictory — perhaps I should have said
"paradoxical," but paradoxical has already been
used several times in these chronicles and it is
too good a word to be overworked — Artemus Ward
came into the editorial rooms. He had been there
before, but his business was not so important as
on the- occasion under consideration. Previously
he had been there simply to see about something
connected with his lecture that was to be given
at the Masonic Temple Hall. Now he had come to
ask us all to go around the corner, to the United
States Hotel, and "take something." One of us
said we would "take something" with us — our
hats, for instance. And Artemus smiled. He was
good-natured and would smile at almost anything
if he thought it was expected of him. His lecture
had been a success — artistic and financial. The
Journal had been a helpful factor in this and
Artemus was grateful. There was a great differ-
ence in the personnel and ways of newspaper folks
in those days from what they are in these days.
Besides, the locale had much to do with the con-
After reaching the "United States," now only a
place of pleasant memory, the party of six or
eight ranged in front of the refreshment bureau,
told stories, emitted jokes, and genialized gener-
ally. Artemus had invited the persons of the
party to "nominate," respectively, their choice of
"pet pizen," and out of the hilarious hubbub came
requests for "brandy smash, please," "gimme a
gin sling," "mix me an apple toddy," "little Bonne-
kamp in mine," "peach and honey, if you don't
mind," etc., etc., and this was in Kentucky.
46 TEN WI SE MEN
Artemus being at the foot of the class, and being,
also, the gentleman who was doing the honors, the
man in white on the other side of the transaction,
said: "And what will you have, Mr. Ward?"
Artemus seemed perturbed, bewildered and per-
plexed. He scratched his head and ruminated,
turning inquiring glances this way and that, at per-
sons and things. Then he said, in that quaint
drawl of his:
"Before I came to Kentucky I had heard a great
deal about a famous beverage that was said to
prevail here, and I had laid off to try it if I ever
happened to be in the state, but since I have been
here I have not heard it mentioned." Then sud-
denly he bethought himself of his memorandum
book. This he fished out of a side pocket and,
after running his finger searchingly up and down
several pages, at last he exultingly exclaimed:
"Ah, here it is! Just a little whiskey, if you
please. A little whiskey, if you happen to have it."
The generation of English speaking people that
is now lingering in the sixth and seventh decades
of its time in these vales of sunshine and shadow
remember "Artemus Ward" as the greatest of
American humorous writers. This with regard to
persons of that generation who had, or have, a
sense of humor and care to remember its fabri-
Artemus Ward's real name was Charles Farrar
Browne. He was born at Waterford, Oxford
county, Maine, April 26, 1834, and died of con-
sumption at Southampton, England, March 6,
1867. His father, Levi Browne, was a justice of
the peace and a land surveyor. His mother was
Caroline E. Browne, and she was a descendant of
the Puritan settlers of New England.
Speaking one time of his descent, Browne said:
"I sometimes think that possibly we came from
Jerusalem, for my father's name was Levi and we
had a Moses and a Nathan in the family. But
my poor brother's name was Cyrus, and thus we
may be Persian. But let that pass."
AND SOME MORE 47
Charles learned something of the "three Rs" in
the Waterford school, but he was early appren-
ticed to the "black art of printing" in the office of
the Skowhegan Clarion, but did not remain there
long enough to fulminate upon that thunderous
trumpet. When he was fifteen he fell into the
Carpet Bag of Boston edited by t. B. Shillaber,
who is known to the history of humor as "Mrs.
Partington," and there are reasons for believing
that Charles furnished much of the inspiration
that produced Mrs. Partington's hopeful son
"Isaac." Charles G. Halpine — "Miles O'Rielly," of
happy memory — and John G. Saxe, the poet and
another Tom Hood, were frequent contributors to
the Carpet Bag, and Browne, whom Saxe was
fond of calling a "typographical error," "stuck the
type" that first began to make them great.
Browne's predisposition to humor, and this sort
of contagion, soon caused him to break out, and
he wrote in a disguised hand a funny thing con-
cerning a Fourth of July celebration in Skow-
hegan. This he slyly slipped into the "copy box"
and chuckled over it next day while putting it
into type. Shillaber discovered the authorship
and praised it. That was the beginning of this
delightful writer's work in the line that gave him
world-wide fame. Speaking of the incident in
after years, Browne said:
"I went to the theatre that night; had a fine
time, and felt that I was the greatest man in Bos-
Browne was regularly engaged for a time as
both writer and printer on the Carpet Bag, and he
was particularly fond of the theatre. He courted
the people of the stage and learned enough of the
"show business" to make it valuable to him in
Browne was nothing if not peripatetic, and with
his living at his finger ends, as a journeyman
printer, he tramped New England and New York
but suddenly brought up one day in Tiffin, Ohio,
where he labored a season as reporter and com-
48 TEN WISE MEN
positor on the county paper at the more or less
princely salary of four dollars per week. Then he
drifted to Toledo and made a local reputation on
the Commercial. The reporters on the Blade un-
dertook to make fun of him, but he made fun of
them, and fun for everybody else in the city. As a
news reporter he was a distinct failure, but his
department was always brimming full and running
over with facetious stuff that people liked, and in
1859, when Browne was twenty-four, J. W. Gray of
the Cleveland Plainclealer engaged him as a local
reporter at the unheard of salary of twelve dollars
per week, and it was here his fame began to reach
out until it had no bounds within the sphere of
humor. It became international and his work is
When Browne went to work in Cleveland he was
the most uncouth looking youth in Ohio — and that
is saying a great deal for those days, under this
head. His clothes looked as if they had been
made for a younger brother who was also a horse
jockey. Indeed, he seemed to be more outside of
his clothes than in them, for they were evidently
too short at both ends. But his humorous writing
improved all the time in f unniness. He took, the
nom-de-plume, "Artemus Ward," from the name of
an eminent Massachusetts judge of early times —
and the law — whom he presented to the world as
an exhibitor of "moral wax works, three moral
bares, a kangaroo (a amoozin little cuss) etc.,
ekalled by few and exceld by none."
Artemus worked incessantly at his desk — which,
by the way, was a tremulous, carved old table —
that he had carved considerably with his jack-
knife — and he would roar with laughter while he
was writing and slap his long legs in his excess of
merriment over his own jokes, for he was a man
who knew a good thing when he saw it, even
though he had made it himself. His work on the
Plainclealer soon brought him continent-wide fame,
and in 1860 he went to New York City, where he
was received with open arms and other things by
AN D 80 ME MORE 49
the wits and bohemians of the metropolis. There
he succeeded Charles G. Leland as the editor of
Vanity Fair, but that imitation of London Punch
did not last long. Artemus, speaking of it after-
ward, said: "Comic copy was what they wanted
for Vanity Fair. I wrote some and killed it. The
poor thing got to be a conundrum and I gave it
However, the fame of Artemus kept on growing
and he decided to lecture. He had grown tired of
writing for the funny press. There was to his
personality, his manner of speech and his ways,
an irresistible aspect and atmosphere of delightful
humor, and he decided upon a burlesque lecture.
This he called "Babes in the Wood," after having
rejected "My Seven Grandmothers," and other
On the evening of December 23, 1861, in Clinton
Hall, that stood where what was formerly Astor
Place Opera House, and where now is the Mer-
cantile Library, Artemus was introduced to his
first audience, if a few outside "trials on the dog"
are excepted. The city had been previously more or
less littered with "dodgers" and "guttersnipes"
bearing the statement: "Artemus Ward will Speak
There was a terriffic storm that night, but it was
not a storm of the populace to get into the hall.
The elements conspired and Ward's lecture was
not a financial success. It was a success as a
comic lecture, however.
He published a book entitled: "Artemus Ward,
His Book." More than forty thousand copies were
sold in a few weeks, and then Artemus went on
lecturing and to lecture. At Musical Fund Hall,
Philadelphia, he appeared before a vast audience
in a monologue entitled "Sixty Minutes in Africa."
Behind him on the stage had been hung a large
and vivid map of Africa, which continent was then
very much terra incognita — whatever that is — and
of the region mapped Artemus said: "It abounds in
various natural productions, such as reptiles and
TEN WISE MEN
He Courted tl e People of the Stage.
AND SOME MORE 51
flowers. It produces the red rose, the white rose
and the neg-roes. In the middle of the continent is
what travelers describe as a 'howling wilderness;'
for my part I do not know what it is howling
about and, indeed, I have never heard it howl, nor
met anyone who has." That was about all he had
to say concerning Africa.
Artemus lectured all over the eastern region of
the republic, and with the receipts from the box-
office and the sale of his books he was now con-
siderably beyond four — or even twelve — dollars
per week, and somewhat in the lead of the smart
young men who had made fun of him in Toledo
and Cleveland and who had said that he was a fool
when he began to talk about lecturing.
With his success the clothes of Artemus grew
better. Indeed, they got to be better than almost
anybody's — and his hair took to curling.
Artemus had funny panoramas to illustrate his
lectures and the names of these lectures might c^s
well have been the name of anything else. Even
the programs and bills advertising his lectures
were funny, and his manner of delivery was so
exceedingly amusing that often his slightest
movement would set an audience in a roar.
Hundreds of humorous stories are told of Arte-
mus, many of which are true, having originated
in his perennial desire to have some fun,
Tom McGuire, the famous theatrical manager of
San Francisco, telegraphed Artemus in 1863, ask-
ing what he would take for a hundred nights.
Artemus promptly responded, "Brandy and sugar."
He was engaged.
On the way back Artemus had a good time at
Salt Lake with Brigham Young and the saints gen-
erally. There he fell ill and he told me afterwards
that he got so thin two persons couldn't see him at
the same time, "but since that," he continued, "1
have held such hands, at times, that nobody could
see me." This is a fine point, but doubtless there
are persons in this republic who will see it.
52 TEN WISE MEN
An old servant in the house where Ward lived in
London, miscalculating his capacity for gin, fell in
the fire and was burned to a crisp. Viewing the
remains afterwards, Artemus remarked, "Well
done, good and faithful servant."
Once in New York Artemus had been out to a
press supper and was going to his lodgings that
night, sandwiched between a couple of friends.
At the supper, "Larboard Watch Ahoy" had been
one of the songs, and it was echoing through
Ward's brain as he went along, so every once in a
while he would yell "Larboard Watch Ahoy."
Finally a policeman came to him and said he must
quit making so much noise. Artemus asked, "Who
are you?" The man replied, "I'm a watchman, and
if you don't quit yelling like that I'll run you in."
"Well," said Artemus, "if you are not the larboard
watch we were not calling you, and you may run
It was Artemus who asked the conductor of a
train why he didn't put the cowcatcher on behind
to keep the cows from coming in at that end and
running over the passengers.
On long journeys Artemus was sometimes ner-
vous and irritable. On such an occasion he was
once assailed by a talkative individual with "How
'dy do; nice day; traveling far? What do you
think of Greeley's way of quelling the rebellion?"
With well-feigned ignorance Ward said, "Greeley?
Greeley! Who is Greeley? Don't know him."
"Why," returned the man, "Greeley of the Tri-
"Don't know him," replied Ward; "didn't know
that he had a Tribune."
The man looked wild, but his loquacity finally
gost the better of him and he asked, "What do you
think of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation?"
"Really, you must excuse me," said Ward, "but
I don't seem to be acquainted with your circle of
AND SOME MORE 53
Almost stunned, the man said, "Thunder and
lightning, don't you know Abraham Lincoln? Great
Heavens! did you ever hear of Adam?"
"Adam? Adam!" queried Ward, "I can't bring
him to mind. What was his other name?"
Once when Artemus and Miss Kate Terry
(Ellen's sister) were jaunting in a cab about one
of the shopping districts of London, Artemus
caused the cab to be halted at the curb in front
of a hardware shop. A salesman came out and
stood ready to tako the order of the seeming
customers. Artemus asked for a well-known
"Aye, sir, but this is an 'ardware shop, ye know,
and we 'ave no books," said the salesman.
"Oh! it makes no difference as to the binding,"
Artemus returned. "Any sort of binding will do;
cloth, calf, board — any old binding, my son."
"But I said, doncher know, that this is an 'ard-
ware shop and we do not sell books at all, sir."
"Oh! about two hundred pages, I should think,"
said the imperturable humorist. "Inch or so
The salesman returned to the store and informed
the proprietor that a man evidently insane was
out at the curb and that he had found it impos-
sible to make the man understand that this was a
The proprietor went out and, approaching Arte-
mus, who sat patiently waiting while pleasantly
conversing with his companion, said, with most
"Wat were you pleased to want, sir?"
"A little three-cornered file," unblushingly the
humorist replied. "Want to sharpen a saw. You
keep such things, I suppose?"
"Certainly, sir," the proprietor said. "I'll 'ave
it for you in a jiffy."
The shop-keeper quickly returned with the
article mentioned, for which Artemus paid the
few pennies, its price, and drove away.
54 TEN WISE MEN
There has been no report as to what the shop-
keeper said afterward to his assistant, who could
not understand when a customer required iso
simple a thing as a littte three-cornered file.
Ward had a phenomenal liking for children
and often wrote private letters to those of his
acquaintance. Following is a copy of one of these
written to a little girl, then of the age of 8 and
now the wife of a prominent merchant in a New
Salem, Mass., June 18, 1864.
My Dear Amelia: — I cannot tell you how much I
It seems as though I had lost all my relatives
including my grandmother and the cooking-stove.
Why didn't I put you in a bottle and bring you
down here with me? But I am always forgetting
something. The other day I went off and forgot
my Aunt Sarah, and she's a good deal bigger than
you are. Mr. Ramsey is also a forgetful man. He
frequently goes off and forgets his washerwoman.
Mr. Ramsey is a very fine looking man. He
reminds me of Mr. Green, the Maiden murderer.
When Mr. Ramsey goes to the penitentiary, which
will be very soon, we must send him doughnuts,
magazines and other literary documents. Mr.
Ramsey can read print very well.
I like you very much. I should like you just as
well if you were twelve years older. I'm very
singular about some things.
You spoke to me about a boy who is my rival.
I should feel very sorry to kill that boy, but he
may drive me to it. I am in hopes he may take
himself into a premature tomb — that he may
choke himself with a large slice of pudding, but
if he does neither I shall be forced to load him
with chains and read all my lectures to him. That
will finish him. His boots may remain, but the
rest of him will have perished miserably long
before I have got through.
AND SOME MORE 55
You must be a good little girl and always mind
your mother. Never let your excellent mother
feel sorry that she is acquainted with you. If it
hadn't been for her you might have been drowned
in a soup plate long ago. And if you hadn't ever
had any mother you might now be in Turkey with
the other Turkeys. In fact, my dear Amelia, so
conduct yourself that even on dark and rainy
days the bright sun may shine wherever you are
and that the stars (which are next to the sun in
brightness) may-never flash so brilliantly but that
you can always look steadily and hopefully toward
them. Faithfully your friend, A. Ward.
Artemus delivered his first lecture in San Fran-
cisco in the then greatest auditorium in that city,
Piatt's Hall. It was gone even before the earth-
quake and fire of 1906 took nearly all the balance
of that city. He toured California in great
triumph and returned overland in the autumn of
1864 and lectured in Salt Lake at Brigham
Young's theatre. The great Mormon leader took
an immense fancy to Artemus and treated him
widf abundant hospitality. It was on this trip
that Artemus conceived his lecture, "Among the
Mormons" that he aelivered all over the states on
the eastern side of the Rockies with unprece-
dented success. Artemus carried in his pockets
at this time complimentary tickets to his enter-
tainment that bore these words: "Admit the
Bearer and one wife. Yours Trooly, A. Ward."
Having rambled all over the field on this side
of the ocean Artemus sought pastures new oil
the other side and died there, poor fellow, at the
youthful age of 33.
It was in the latter part of 1866, that Artemus
Ward began his lectures in Egyptian Hall, Lon-
don. His first appearance was an ovation, and
this was true of every appearance during his
seven weeks there. It was on Friday of that
week that he had become so seriously ill as to
56 TEN WISE MEN
prelude the possibility of his going before the
audience that was deeply disappointed when the
announcement was made.
He never stood before an audience again.
The scholars, wits, poets, dramatists, novelists,
and even leaders of society, and persons of high
rank in the nobility and royalty, had greeted him
with the utmost cordiality and had made his visit
a continual delight. Charles Reade became his
devoted friend and Mark Lemon invited him to
become a contributor to London Punch, and
Artemus was much elated.
When Artemus became so seriously ill he went,
upon medical advice, to the Island of Jersey, but
even the balmy breezes there failed to recuperate
him. He was brought back to Southampton and
could journey no further. The members of the
"Literary Club" of London, in which he was a
favorite, visited him at Southampton in couples
to cheer him. When he died a pall of sorrow fell
upon all of England and America. His remains
were brought back to Waterford and buried in
the family lot of the cemetery there.
A few years ago, on a certain day, the printers
all over the United States set each a specified num-
ber of "ems," the pay for which went to the con-
struction of a monument that in the New England
churchyard marks the spot where repose the frail
tenement that once held in the genial soul of
"Artemus Ward, showman."
In the earlier days of Faxon, Prentice and Ward,
a special friend of Artemus lived, George H. Derby,
a lieutenant in the United States army, who was
one of the most distinguished humorists and wits
of this Nation. He was born in 1823 at Norfolk,
Mass. He graduated at West Point, July 1st, 1846,
and was immediately transferred to the topo-
graphical engineer corps, and served with great
distinction through the Mexican War. In 1853
and 1854 he was superintendent of the harbor of
San Diego, being then on the staff of the com-
AND SOME MORE 57
manding general of the military department of the
As a humorist and a witty writer he gave to
the world under the nom de plume of "John
Philip Phoenix," a work entitled, "The Squibob
Papers," and another called "Phoenixana,"
These volumes were illustrated with pictures from
his own pencil, and the books are as brilliant in
humor as those of the best. No one ever saw him
or heard him talk who was not carried away by
the sly fund of humor that characterized all he
said or did. At the same time he was one of the
quietest, most dignified and courteous gentlemen.
He died May 15th, 1861, in New York City.
While at San Diego, Phoenix was once left in
charge of a daily newspaper during the absence
of its editor and owner; in that time he changed
the politics of the paper, for a joke, and assisted
in defeating its editor's best friends for office.
ALPHOXSO MINOR GRISWOLD.
Alphonso Minor Griswold, "The Fat Con-
Frequently, in Louisville and Cincinnati, in the
four or five years immediately following the Civil
War, I met A. Minor Griswold, known to humor-
ous literature and the comic lecture rostrum as
"The Fat Contributor." At that time this writer
was on the staff of the Louisville Journal, part of
the time and then running the Richmond Head-
light, which was a newspaper printed and pub-
lished on the great low-pressure steamer Rich-
mond, plying between Louisville and New Or-
leans. Sometimes Griswold would run down to
Louisville on a packet, to visit me, or I would run
up to Cincinnati to visit him, and once he was my
guest for three weeks, on the Richmond, to New
Orleans and return, for we were fast friends —
with the emphasis on "fast," some of our solic-
itous friends were wont to say. Those were
halcyon days — whatever they are — anyhow that
is what they are often called.
Griswold was an inveterate punster and his
salutations were never conventional. There was
no inquiry on his part as to "How's your health?"
or the assertion, "It's a fine day," etc. But as if
he had been speaking to his visitor a moment
before, he would say, for instance, "I'll race you
a race down to Race Street," if it were in Cincin-
nati, or "Did you ever fall over the Falls in the
fall of the year at Falls City," if it were in Louis-
ville. He was inordinately fond of such a liter-
ative facetiae and he illustrated a play on words
as a "kitten gamboling on a dictionary." When a
fire destroyed his library he said his loss could
only be described in "words that burn."
Notwithstanding the verbal turpitude and dis-
tressful tendency indicated, Griswold was a real
60 TEN WISE MEN
wit and humorist, and otherwise a refined gentle-
man and scholar.
Griswold made his first appearance on earth
near Utica, New York, on the 26tn day of January
1834. No pent-up Utica could hold him, however,
and as quickly as possible he went through Hamil-
ton College. The word "quickly" is used ad-
visedly. Even Hamilton could not hold him.
A humorous writer of Griswold's day, and
who was an ardent friend and admirer of "The
Fat Contributor" and whose pen name was
"Erratic Enrique," in a short sketch of Griswold
speaks as follows of the college experience under
"Griswold was a member of the class of '59 in
Hamilton, but owing to an unfortunate difference
of opinion between himself and the faculty, con-
cerning the proper mode of conducting that popu-
lar institution of learning, he did not remain to
complete his collegiate course. He has never
held the faculty as being to blame in the matter
at all. The question got in such shape that either
he or they had to leave, and not desiring to see
so respectable a body of gentlemen — some with
families, too — thrown upon the charities of a cold
and unsympathizing world ('twas in the dead of
winter), why, he just left himself. Mr. Griswold
has frequently told me that he looked upon that
spectacle of self-sacrificing devotion to principle
as one of the proudest and most praiseworthy
actions of a life somewhat thickly studded with
little episodes of that nature."
Alphonso Minor Griswold was the full name of
the subject of this sketch. Notwithstanding that
he disliked the idea of parting his name in the
middle, he did it as a matter of self protection, on
the principle that of two evils one should choose
the least. He explained that he always wrote his
name "A. Minor" in order to prevent people from
calling him a major. Mr. Griswold declared that
he abhorred the pomp and circumstance of war
and dreaded the application to himself of a mili-
AND SOME MORE 61
tary title, something that in those days a man of
any conspicuity found it difficult to evade.
Griswold began journalistic life as city editor
of a little newspaper called the Times, which
Hank Faxon started in Buffalo; the times were a
little too hard for the Times and it joined the
majority at the head of the golden stair. Then
he perpetrated humorous articles on the Repub-
lic, of Buffalo, signed, "The Fat Contributor."
These articles were written for the purpose of
ingratiating himself with the typographical fra-
ternity, as at that time he had in view some stu-
pendous newspaper schemes and the articles were
chiefly celebrated for the "quad lines" which they
contained, and were therefore remarkably "fat"
for the printers. Afterward he found a lifelong
friend in Artemus Ward, who was then on the
staff of the Cleveland Plaindealer, and in 1860,
when Browne was called to New York to work on
Vanity Fair, Gris, succeeded to his place as asso-
ciate editor of the Plaindealer. Poor Bob Winan,
who died a few years ago in the insane asylum in
St. Joseph, Missouri, was at that time foreman
of the Plaindealer' s composing room and he has
often told me that during this time Gris. wrote
some exceedingly brilliant things, in skeleton
shape, in his note book, which he was in the habit
of bringing up every night, a short time before
the paper should go to press, with the modest
request that Bob would "make something out of
them." The place of Winan's death has been
mentioned; comment would be superfluous.
For nearly five years Gris. lived in Cleveland
and made the press of that city hum every time
he got a chance at the crank, then with a well-
earned fame he was called to Cincinnati to take a
position with the Evening Times, a paper that
was peculiarly suitable as a field for his style of
writing — rollicking fun, mastodonic exageration
and fruitful and pleasing fancy.
Once he started out as the advance agent of a
circus, but concluded that he could give a better
62 TEN WISE MEN
show than that himself, and throw in a menag-
erie, so he wrote a comic lecture and called it
"Injun Meal," in which no allusion was made to
even oatmeal, and he made a big hit. "Injun
Meal" was served up in all the leading cities of
the United States and some parts of New Jersey.
During this march of triumph I heard Gris. lec-
ture in a Missouri city, and I laughed earnestly
and honestly and afterward complimented the,
lecturer. Mark the sequel. The next night I
lectured in the same hall on "Humor and Pathos,"
and Gris. attended. Reciprocity was in order and
Gris. was equal to the occasion. He said that my
lecture was one of the best averages that he had
ever heard; that my humor was exceedingly
pathetic and that my pathos was the soul of
humor. But everything comes right with the
whirligig of time, and behold I have the privilege
of talking out in church about that man, ha ha!
When Griswold delivered humorous lectures he
was advertised as the "Fat Contributor," and
everybody expected to see a man of stunning
avoirdupois. He always had some one go on the
stage before he did, who pretended to be examin-
ing its capacity for holding up an immense party.
This would raise expectancy to tip-toe and of
course there was a big laugh when Gris. came
tripping out, a dapper little dandy, not bigger
than a pound of soap after a day's washing. In
one place where he lectured the audience found
fault with the size of the lecturer, but then he
had good reason to find fault with the size of the
He told me once that in order to get started as
a lecturer he visited a suburb of Cincinnati and
intimated to some parties there what he came for.
They said he had come to the right place as they
had started a good many lecturers from there. He
said his audience that night consisted of a single
individual — who was married— an immensely fat
party, who in a little while arose as one man —
AND SOME MORE 63
and went out. As he went he said if Gris. would
lecture there another night his audience would be
larger; he couldn't come himself, but he would
send his wife, who outweighed him eighty
To advertise his lecture Gris. had a cut of a
machine for stopping a runaway horse. It was a
picture of a beam running out from the top of the
buggy over the horse and so arranged with
pulleys that the horse could be lifted off his feet
and his locomotion be thus suspended.
Traveling one day from Cincinnati to Columbus,
in company with Gris. he was telling me of hav-
ing delivered his "Injun Meal" the night before
in a backwoods town of Kentucky. During this
lecture he had said that when Columbus started
Over to discover this country the boys telegraphed
down to him that if he would wait until they
could make it on their bicycles, and the steam
cars, etc., they would come down and see him off.
A burly and unappreciative native stood at the
door as the audience was leaving the hall and
remarked to a friend, in the hearing of Gris., and
for his benefit:
"That rooster don't know nothin' about history.
There warn't no telegraphs, an' steam kyars, an s
the like er that in the days of Columbus."
When Gris. told this on the train there was a
general laugh, except from a big Hoosier who sat
near. He "dipped in his oar," and triumphantly
remarked: "Waal, the Kentuckian was right;
there wasn't any telegraphs and steam cars in
the days of Columbus."
With this Gris. gave the Hoosier a withering
glance and then said to him: "See here, my
friend, hadn't you better climb into the cattle
cars somewhere along this road?"
In 1872 Mr. Griswold and some associates
started a humorous weekly magazine in Cincin-
nati that was called Saturday Night. This
periodical won a large share of success as a humor-
ous and literary concern in the Ohio and Missis-
TEN WISE MEN
AND SOME MORE 65
sippi Valley region, and in 1874 Griswold became
sole proprietor. He here wrought for several
years and the emanations of his pen were as fre-
quently quoted in the newspapers of the country
as those of any man that ever contributed to the
periodical press. But Griswold was not a busi-
ness success. Or, to say the most, his successes
were intermittent, fickle and undulating. He dis-
posed of his interest in Saturday Night and went
to New York where for several years he worked
on Texas Sittings with Alex Sweet.
During this period he also gave much time to
his humorous lectures, traveling as far as Puget
Sound cities, where' this writer saw him last, in
1891. It was during one of these tours, in 1892,
that Griswold joined the silent majority. He lec-
tured in Janesville, Wisconsin, one night and was
found in his bed at the hotel next morning, bereft
of the great soul that had won him the love of a
mighty multitude of good people.
Personally, Minor Griswold was one of the most
sociable, genial and warm hearted gentlemen that
his kind will ever meet. His life was grateful
shade and mellow sunshine, and the comfort and
joy of his friends. He had a handsome and pleas-
ing face in which mirth and good humor danced all
the time a merry-go-round. The mind of the man
shone through the windows of his soul, his eyes,
and to his associates he was ever a well-spring
of jollity and kindliness.
Griswold's journalistic accomplishments were
versatile. He wrote strong and brilliant editorials
on the general questions of the day; his para-
graphs were unfailingly bright and smart and he
wrote more than a quarter of a century. But
his peculiar forte was in burlesque sketches of
persons of ancient fame. It is to be hoped that
some one has preserved them and will yet collate
them in such a book as he had intended, a proper
title to which would be: "Tne Has Beens," or
"Those Who Have Gone Before and Are Now Be-
THE CHILDREN'S POET.
From somewhere in the wilds of "Bohemia,'
that vagahondia in which young newspaper men
of half a century ago — more or less — delighted, I
had strayed into its entourage at St. Louis. It
was late in 1872 or early in 1873 — precision as to
that is impossible — anyhow it was winter-time
and "the grass was short." Eugene Field, very
young and very happy, was the distinct individ-
ual of the gay party of newspaper "cadets" into
which I fell, who was particularly friendly and
helpful to me: He took me to an eminently
respectable boarding-house, vouched for my be-
havior and deposited a sufficient number of dollars
with the landlady to guarantee lodging and sus-
tenance until I could "connect," and that eventu-
For some months I met him frequently and a
friendship was engendered that has lasted ever
since. Though he has gone over to the other
world, I love and revere his memory.
Afterwards, in 1875, while he was in St.
Joseph, Mo., as the city editor of the Gazette and
I as city editor of the Herald, we met almost
every day and night and were devoted friends. It
was during this period that he, in the Missouri
State Press Association, caused me to be made
poet for one year — an instance when a poet was
"made" such, instead of being thus "born."
In 1876, when I was married in Omaha, Field
organized a sort of telegraphic "Round Robin"
of facetious, congratulatory messages by wire and
afterward "ran up" with a delegation, one Sun-
day, to personally "see if it was so."
In 1881, in Denver, upon returning from a long
experience in newspaperdom and on the stage in
68 TEN WI SE MEN
California and the far west generally, I again fell
into pleasant association with Field, and when
Bill Nye came to Denver to be my guest, I intro-
duced Nye to Field and others of the newspaper
fraternity of that ilk. It was Nye's first visit to
Denver, and at that time the photograph of Field,
Nye, Leon Mead and myself was made that was
printed in the Century Magazine, July 1902, and
elsewhere before and since. At the same time Nye
and Field were photographed together in Imitation
of Raphael's (Sistine) 'Cherubs," looking over the
walls of the New Jerusalem or something — walls,
at any rate.
In Chicago in 1886 Field made me acquainted
with Opie Read, whom I had never met though we
knew each other through the freemasonry of the
journalism of that day and generation. The friend-
ship thus formed has been phenomenally strong
and pleasant ever since.
Read and myself attended the funeral services
that were conducted by Rev. Dr. Frank Gunsaulus,
where the casket that held all that was mortal of
Eugene Field was piled high with the floral tri-
butes of loving friends. When the services were
over and a long and reverent procession filed by to
take a last Iook at the face of the dead poet,
Read and I went another way. We wished to
remember the face of our friend as we had known
it in life.
The foregoing facts have been written here to
establish the impression that from a long train of
incidents, extending over nearly a quarter of a
century, and connected with my acquaintance with
Eugene Field, and from much correspondence
with him, I am able to write truthfully and know-
ingly of the man, yet humbly and admiringly.
In a series of sketches of poets and humorists
whom I had known, printed in a Denver news-
paper in 1884, and which were intended, ulti-
mately, to be collated in book form, I had written
one of Field, published October 18, of that year,
AND SOME MORE 69
from which the following quoted excerpts are
"In this age of eccentric literature which has
produced 'Artemus Ward,' 'Josh Billings,' 'Bill Nye,'
et al, no brighter jewel has sparkled in the tiara
of gentle and jolly Thalia, than Eugene Field. Of
all the writers of humorous verse, not one has
excelled him, and when writers of a later day
shall do the tardy justice which brings a fuller
meed of greatness to poets when they are dead,
then will Eugene Field be known of all men as
the gentle poet, par excellence. True, he is
famous now, but such work as he has done and is
doing, will improve with age like wine of virtu-
ous vintage. But not only as one who has
wrought in versified humor does he shine, he has
written much of serious and sentimental song
and touches the heart when he touches a lyric
strain, and he is withal a bright humorist in
"Eugene Field was born in the city of St.
Louis, Mo., in 1850, the son of R. M. Field, Esq.,
one of the ablest, most cultured and highly re-
spected advocates in law at the bar of that State.
So prominent were his legal learning and his
manly integrity that Governor Fletcher selected
and appointed him to the bench of the Supreme
Court of Missouri, but briefly, positively and
unconditionally, in a few dignified and respect-
ful words, he declined the high honor which
sought him. Eugene's mother died when he was
only six years old and he was then sent to Am-
herst, Massachusetts, to be reared and educated
under the tender care of his cousin — his father's
niece — Miss French. To the gentle training of this
estimable lady may be traced many charming
traits of our poet's character, and all of the social
accomplishments for which he is admired by those
of his circle of personal friends, and gratefully and
fondly does he remember the guide-star of his
TEN WISE MEN
Huntly, the city editor, in the
disguise of a "saw-bones"
AND SOME MORE 71
"By Miss French's direction young Field was
placed under the tutelage of the Rev. James Tufts,
of Monson, Mass., to prepare for college, and at
the age of seventeen was admitted to Williams
College. The death of his father, shortly after his
college career began, caused the severance of his
Eastern scholastic connections. Prof. John W.
Burgess, then professor of English literature in
Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, and afterwards
professor of Latin in Columbia College Law
School was appointed his guardian and thereupon
he was taken from the East and entered at Knox
College, where he remained two years, afterwards
completing his education at the University of Mis-
"In 1871, being of age, Field visited Europe, and
spent six months in roaming over England, France
and Italy. There he first became acquainted with
the remains of the races and lands of the ancient
masters of epic and lyric verse, which had
inspired his early years. Much, in fact, of the fine
method which is apparent in all of his work may
be attributed to his travel and observation in
Europe, as it gave him the true measure, in reality,
of the studies of his youth.
"In 1873 Field began newspaper work as a
reporter on the press of St. Louis, and it was about
this time that the writer hereof became acquainted
with him and at once became his warm admirer
and acquired the distinguished honor and pleasure
of his friendship and esteem. Rapidly Field arose
in journalism, occupying many high places on the
newspapers of his native city and of St. Joseph and
Kansas City, in the same state, until he had won a
fame as a wit, poet and journalist which was
valuable professionally, and everywhere he quickly
gathered around him a circle of friends who
delighted in his society, he being not only bril-
liant with the pen, but debonair of manner and
possessed of rare gifts in music, story-telling and
72 TEN WI S E MEN
"In 1880, Field's services were sought by the
bright and breezy Tribune of Denver, and he
brought to it as managing editor a refreshing at-
mosphere of humor, satire, poesy and pathos,
which combined with Ottomar Rothacker's classic
or pungent work, and purity and force of dic-
tion, and strength and brilliancy of thought, gave
for a time to the people of Colorado, and the pub-
lic generally a joy in journalism.
"While with the Tribune Field won his greatest
popular fame as the author of a series of humorous
bits called the 'Tribune Primmer,' some samples
of which will be given herewith, when these
papers have been compiled.
"Although Eugene Field has won fame as a par-
agrapher and humorist in prose, he has become
more widely known throughout the United States
and England as a poet, and it is in this vein that
his best efforts have found circulation. A thor-
ough master of all the intricacies of the human
heart, he has applied himself to the delineation of
the better qualities of the objects aimed at, with-
out seeking, as many do, who have the same
power to expose the corruptions thereoi. Through
all his poetic effusions, there is the same indelible
stamp of genuine manhood which made Burns the
object of interest and love, and which will ever
live in the memory of his countrymen, the lack of
which will always cause Byron to be looked upon,
by future generations, as a misanthrope and cynic.
"To compare Eugene Field to any of his living
contemporaries would be a waste of time. He
stands alone and on a tower built by his own
" His eccentric verse first attracted the attention
of the reading public in 1877, when he published
his poem on the marriage of the Marquis of Lome
to the daughter of the royal Victoria. Although
much weaker than those which followed, it is
appended as the first bud of his poetic genius:
AND SOME MORE 73
"With tragic air the lovelorn heir
Once chased the chaste Louise;
She quickly guessed her guest was there
To please her with his pleas.
Now at her side he kneeling sighed
His sighs of woful size;
'Oh! hear me here, for low, most low
I rise before your eyes.
"This soul is sole thine own, Louise —
'Twill never wean, I ween
The love that I for aye shall feel,
Tho' mean may be its mien!
'You know I cannot tell you no,'
The maid made answer true, —
'To love you aught, as sure I ought —
To you 'tis due I do!'
'Since you are won, O, fairest one,
The marriage rite is right —
The chapel aisle I'll lead you up
This night,' exclaimed the knight."
'Of his lyric poetry one specimen is given here-
with which is full of tender beauty and charming
pathos as well as rythmic excellence:
"THE CHRISTMAS STOCKING."
I count my treasures o'er with care
The little toy that baby knew,
The little sock of faded hue,
The little lock of golden hair.
Long years ago this Christmas time,
My little one — my all to me —
Sat robed in white upon my knee
And heard the merry Christinas chime.
74 TEN WI SE M EN
"Tell me, my little golden head,
If Santa Claus should come to-night
What shall he leave my baby bright,
What treasure for my boy?" I said.
And then he named the little toy
While in his round and mournful eyes
There came a look of glad surprise
That spoke his trustful, quiet joy.
And as he lisped his evening pray'r,
He asked the boon with childish grace,
And toddled to the chimney place
And hung his little stocking there.
That night as length 'ning shadows crept,
I saw the white-winged angels come
With heavenly music to our home
And kiss my darling as he slept.
They must have heard his baby pray'r,
For in the morn with anxious face
He toddled to the chimney place
And found his little treasure there.
They came again one Christmas tide,
That angel host, so fair and white,
And, singing all the Christmas night
They lured my darling from my side.
A little sock — a little toy —
A little lock of golden hair —
The Christmas music on the air —
A watching for my baby-boy.
And if again that angel train
And goldenhead come back to me,
To bear me to eternity,
My watching will not be in vain.
AND SOM E MORE 75
When Field returned to St. Louis in 1872, and
bent upon matrimony, he felt like doing some-
thing to brace up his fortune, so went to work on
the Evening Journal at the princely salary of $10
per week — or month — Field is not very certain
which, and really it was a matter of no particular
importance, seeing that he never got it, and at the
same time he was spending more money every
day than the Journal's income amounted to, at a
rough guess. Nevertheless, in 1873 he was mar-
ried to a young lady of St. Joseph, Mo., Miss Julia
Comstock, and kept on his work as a Journal re-
porter. At this time Stanley "Waterloo was editor
of the Journal. Stanley Huntley, late "Spoopen-
dyke" of the Brooklyn Eagle, was the city editor.
Rose Field, Eugene's brother, now of the Chicago
Post, was dramatic critic. Tom Meek, and Ash
Cohen — who wrote the song "Bird of the Angel
Wing," — were reporters. It was a splendid staff,
but somehow the management hadn't "caught on"
up to that time, and "the ghost failed to walk" on
pay days with anything like a thorough-going
stride. There was no' lack of enterprise either
among the staff, for it was during this time that
the question arose as to where a certain medical
college in St. Louis got its subjects for dissection,
and in order to fasten the thing properly on the
students, Huntley, the city editor, in disguise of a
"sawbones" apprentice, made a contract with a
suspected body-snatcher for a subject, and the
body was duly delivered that night at the back
entrance of the college, and the police officers, who
witnessed the entire performance, were placed in
proper position to ferret the matter clean through,
and the Journal had a big sensation withal.
In those times on the Journal when the re-
mainder of the staff wept and wailed because cash
was not, Field felt that life was too short to fool
around the counting room, and he would go home
whistling, sometimes after having loaned Cohen
or Meek money enough to see them over Sunday.
Besides his tender heart couldn't bear the anguish
TEN WISE MEN
Field's Hole in the Wall
AND SOM E MORE 77
of the proprietors, whose resources seemed to be
circumscribed to such a narrow limit that an ordi-
nary pair of compasses could have drawn a circle
Early in 1875 Eugene Field accepted a position
as reporter on the St. Joseph Gazette, and in
about two weeks was made city editor. He
worked there somewhat more than a year and his
brilliant coruscations began to attract general
On the evening of the first of January, 1876, the
printers, editors and pressmen — in fact all per-
sons in St. Joe intimately or remotely connected
with the "art preservative," — met at Joe Wehrle's
establishment and sat down to an elegant banquet.
Capt. Prank Posegate, afterward postmaster and
later Mayor of St. Joseph, who was a pioneer
printer of St. Joseph, and one of the original own-
ers of the Herald, presided, and read a paper giving
a history of newspaperdom in that city up to that
date. There were, besides, songs, toasts, speeches,
an original and very funny poem entitled "Slug 14,"
by Field, and a world of pure enjoyment and solid
comfort in which this writer participated.
In person — face, form and bearing — Eugene Field,
in repose, did not indicate his many-sided traits,
attainments and accomplishments. His general
appearance was what may be termed clerical.
He had a homely face, pleasing in its intel-
ligence and he was tall, straight and beardless.
His geniality was perennial and contagious, and
he was always the life of any convivial party into
which he was thrown, if the party was a con-
genial one. He had a wondrous deep bass voice,
and, being a natural actor, would have made a suc-
cess on the lyric stage, especially in buffo parts, in
which he would have been greatly assisted by
his remarkable sense of the ludicrous and his fond-
ness for burlesque and ridicule.
Outside of his work-room in the newspaper
building, Field was scrupulously neat and conven-
tionally well dressed. In his work-room he was
78 TEN WISE MEN
just the reverse. For years he wore at his work
the zebra suit of a prison convict. When not thus
garbed he worked in his "shirt-sleeves" or a
woolly "wampus," suspenders down and feet in
some manner slip-shod.
Field was the most incessant and insistent
practical joker that biography has ever mentioned.
Funny pranks were a jolly mania with him and of
those he perpetrated in his lifetime a huge volume
might be written, even though each were tersely
told. While some of those tricks were hilariously
cruel — so to speak — they were never physically
painful or in any manner unforgivable. His bot-
tomless chair was perhaps the instrument of that
one which more palpably than any other was
calculated to crush the dignity of a victim. This
chair was for several months the leading feature
of Field's room in the Denver Tribune building.
Bill Nye sat in this chair once — and "in" is the
word. Nye does not mention his personal experi-
ence in this chair that by children of a century
ago was called a "rush-bottom," because the bot-
tom had rushed out, but he alluded to it once and
his "Remarks" in that connection convey a clear
description of the affair — noun and verb. He says:
"As the 'Nonpariel Writer' of the Denver
Tribune, it was a mystery to me when he did the
work which the paper showed each day as his own.
You would sometimes find him at his desk writ-
ing on large sheets of 'print paper' with a pen and
violet ink, in a hand that was as delicate as the
steel plate of a bank note and the kind of work
that printers would skirmish for. He would ask
you to sit down in the chair opposite his desk,
which had two or three old exchanges thrown on
it. He would probably say, 'Never mind those
papers. I've read them. Just sit down on them if
you want to.'
"Encouraged by his hearty manner, you would
sit down until you had protruded about three-
fourths of your system through that hollow mock-
ery of a chair. Then he would run to help you out
AND SOME MORE 79
and curse the chair, and feel pained because he
had erroneously given you the ruin with no seat to
it, He always felt pained over such things. He
always suffered and felt shocked over the accident
until you had gone away, and then he would sigh
heavily and 'set' the chair again."
The day before Oscar Wilde was to arrive in
Denver, Field, made up to personate the poet, and
arrayed in the laces, lilies and other aesthetics
affected by that more or less distinguished and
extinguished bard, accompanied by Ottomar
Rothacker, the brilliant editor of the Tribune, and
F. J. V. Skiff, business manager of the newspaper,
in a splendid carriage, rode about the streets of
Denver, attracting much attention. The populace
supposed that the real Wilde, who was to lecture
at the Tabor Grand on the next evening, but one,
was on view. When the "Dainty Bunthorne"
arrived the next day, he was astonished to learn
of the sensation he had created the day before.
When the performance was explained to him in the
light of a joke he accepted it as "Quite a valuable
advertisement for my lecture, doncher knaw."
Field, for once, felt the recalcitrance of a joke
boomerang. Wilde's obtuseness as to humor be-
came the unwitting rebuke of the joke and the
When Eugene Field lived in Denver he went
frequently in summertime ■ to a pond in the
suburbs to swim. On one of these occasions a
newsboy who was engaged in the same sport was
about to drown, when Field, who was not an expert
swimmer, went to the lad's assistance and saved
his life at the imminent risk of his own. In fact,
Field was pulled out of the place by other men
who happened to get to him in time, and much
patience and skill were required to resuscitate the
As it was, Field was quite ill for several days
afterward, and unable to work. When he got back
to the office the boy whose life had been saved
TEN WISE MEN
AND ROM E MORE 81
came to see his rescuer. The boy proved to be
such an insolent and tough little wretch that talk-
ing to him made Field stammer more than usual,
but he managed to say:
"L-l-look here, you little scamp. D-d-don't you
ever t-t-tell anybody that I s-s-saved your life.
I've g-g-got sins enough to answer for without
Shortly after Field came to Chicago to live, he
took Paul Hull home with him to his Christmas
dinner. At the table Hull was seated, by Field's
direction, between two very young Messrs. Field.
Eugene himself sat opposite this trio, the. other
members of the family in their accustomed places.
Before the dinner began Field addressed the
youngsters with severe seriousness.
"This man Hull," he said, "has come here, unin-
vited, to eat up your Christmas turkey, which has
cost me a great deal of money, and your mother
much trouble to have it nicely prepared."
The youngsters looked daggers at Hull.
Continuing, Field said: "Of course, now that he
is here, it would not be exactly the right thing to
turn him out."
The Field boys exhibited a shade of compassion.
"But in order to make him pav for his dinner,
vou are to insist upon bis serving you, and you are
not to bother me, that's all."
The kids grabbed Hull bv both arms. They
wanted everything in sight, and they wanted it in
Hull piled their plates, and they handled his
Sunday clothes with ungloved Christmas fingers.
After it was all over Field said:
'THiull, I wish you would go into the bath-room
and wash yourself. I'm expecting company this
evening, and seeing that you are about my size,
you will do me the kindness to put on a suit of my
clothes that you will find there. Some of the folks
ccming are just a mite fastidious."
82 TEN WI SE MEN
The things that Hull said will not be recorded
until asbestos has been adapted to writing and
To his own children, when they were little tots,
either by heredity or contagion, befel his own gro-
tesque manner of humorous things. This is illus-
trated by the following incident: The children
were the owners, possessors and frequent associ-
ates of a goat that was more odorous, and less
pleasantly so than "Araby the Blest." In their
tumblings and other hilarious capers with this
fragrant beast they would become saturated with
that balm at which the olfactories of others about
the Field domicile would rebel, when the young-
sters came in from a frolic with "His Capricine
Majesty." That this became monotonous to the
elders is putting it modestly. Discussions as to
the manner in which the goat was to be disposed of
caused distress and lamentation among the "kids"
untli one day a friend who was dining with the
family, urged thereto by palpable though invisible
signs in the air, asked the privilege of sending to
the children a bottle of some other fragrant extract
with which by applying to themselves, at toilet,
after contact with the goat, might neutralize the
other forceful odor. This worked well for a
space but the detail became tco onerous and after
due consultation it was decided that if a little per-
fume would dispel the goat smell from each of
them then the whole bottle applied to the goat
would entirely and for all time destroy the mal-
scent at its source. The big bottle was utilized as
indicated, but the fluid seemed to simply be, thus
used, a long-lost, or else never-before-discovered,
agent for emphasizing the odor of a goat, and the
last condition became worse than the first. The
odor became so intensified that the only way to
fumigate the situation that presented itself satis-
factorily was to banish the goat to Shanty-town,
and thus the problem was solved.
Field had a way of saying things, in reproof or
reprehension, that was effective though quaint and
AND SOM E MO RE 8 3
apparently innocent. Once he remarked, under
sufficient provocation: "I never use tobacco, but T
am passionately fond of cigarettes." Truth was he
had a horror of cigarettes, though he chewed
tobacco and smoked cigars with great vigor.
Field died at his home, the Sabine Farm, in
Buena Park, Chicago, on the early morning of
November 4, 1895.
No man's death ever so much disturbed all the
mighty city and the funeral of the poet-journalist
was one of the most imposing that ever occurred
in the city named.
About that time, this writer was requested by
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, to write
something of Eugene Field, and that article is
given herewith as a heartfelt but meagre estimate
of the man and his work:
"In a mighty maelstrom of people and busi-
ness, such as characterizes Chicago, when the
death of a man, and that man almost a recluse —
as to person — disturbs the monstrous whirl, then
he must be a man of mark. This occurred when
Eugene Field died.
"Field was, in many respects, a remarkably
contradictory character. He was a great, over-
grown boy, and he was a strong and dignified
man; he wrote lullabies and toyish things in
verse, and he wrote abstruse and scholarly things
in prose. He also wrote classic poetry and flip-
"Because of his songs for and about children,
it is generally understood that he was exceed-
ingly fond of the little ones. Yet there are those
who were familiar with him who say he was not
a lover of children, except his own, and that he
wrote children's poetry for grown folks to read.
Let that be as it may, he caught the children just
the same, and they worshipped him from near and
"Besides, if one with such genius as his desires
to write for children there is inspiration enough
in his own. Through them he can see them all.
84 TEN WI S E MEN
"Field was born to the purple, but he threw
away his patrimony in bohemianism at the out-
set. He went to Europe but not alone. He took
with him a congenial friend who was not so for-
tunately endowed with ducats, and he paid, im-
partially, the expenses of both. Then he came
back and hitched himself to the car of journalism,
-^h trod that tramway at a vigorous step.
"It was in the between times that Field did his
things for the world of letters that won him a
begrudged fame, as well as the necessities and
many of the luxuries of life.
"Eugene Field's forty-sixth year and his death
would have found him further advanced, and more
easily, withal, had he lived more of the years,
when making his fame, nearer to the centres of
culture and publication, and especially in Chicago,
where he was honored in his life and in his ashes.
"Nevertheless it came to be seen, when he was
dead, that he had a world of admirers. "Wealth
crowded about his bier and whelmed it with
bloom. His humbler friends did all they could to
show their love, and with tear-bathed eyes they
looked into his dead face, and with trembling lips
said, whispering, 'Good-bye.'
"His eulogists said he was the friend of all
mankind; but those who knew Eugene Field best
knew also that he had no sort of patience with the
faithless, the hypocrite, the beater of dumb
animals, the pretender of any kind; the inherent
wrongdoer; and, pity 'tis true, a large portion of
humanity — or inhumanity — are these.
"The taking-off of this man was untimely, for
he had much yet to do.
"Besides, it was a poignant and deep grief to
those who loved him, and whom he loved. But
the shock was relieved by the sweetness of his
death, for he wrapped the drapery of his couch
about him and lay down to pleasant dreams. He
awoke to walk the God-lit hills of Eternity.
AND SOME MORE
"He will meet kindred souls in Elysium, and
will hold sweet converse with them. He will meet
the Davids who sang, the Joshuas who fought, and
all the great ones who wrote. For surely such
souls do not die.
"Those things that make the souls of great men,
in love, and thought, and song, are of the Entity
of the Eternal."
Field's rush bottom chair.
EDGAR WILSON NYE (in Laramie).
EDGAR WILSON NYE— KNOWN AS "BILL."
Sam Smith, almost illiterate, having no educa-
tion further than the rudiments obtained in two
or three winter sessions, in a log school house,
in the woods, was born a genius, a poet and
dramatist. He wrote the play "Struck Oil," from
which the Williamsons — man and wife — earned
a great fortune in the latter 1860s and early '70s
and which they took on a tour of the world. He
wrote many other highly successful melodramas,
and died, a hermit in the Nisqually forests of
Western Oregon, in 1895.
This man Smith had written a play that he
called "The Plains" and under proper management
it would have been a hilarious success, but the
sombre manager who got hold of it renamed it
"California Through Death Valley." That name
was more than it could stand, added to the expense
of taking it about.
While comedian of this "Death Valley" company
I played "three nights and a matinee" in Laramie
City, Wyoming, in the summer of 1880 and it was
during this engagement that I became personally
acquainted with Edgar Wilson Nye, known to fame
as "Bill Nye." He told me once that his middle
name was Willis, but other people, and the bio-
graphical dictionary insist that his middle name was
Wilson, so it will have to go at that. He became
famous before leaving Laramie as the editor of the
"Boomerang," but he had no boomerang at the
time of which I write, except an imaginary and
very stubborn mule of that name. He took me to
the military post near by — Fort Saunders — and we
had a long range shooting contest with some of the
crack shots of the command, among them a lieu-
tenant of cavalry who was so hospitable and gra-
cious as to allow us to defeat him. Under Nye's
guidance I saw a great deal of Laramie, and there
88 TEN WISE M EN
was much of it, notwithstanding it was a very-
small town, then.
Among the "resorts" to which Nye led was a
place where a promoter of timely frontier enter-
tainments kept all sorts of sporting arrangements.
He had a cockpit for fighting roosters in, and a
ring for boxers to practice on each other, billiard
tables, ten pin alleys and other accommodations.
While we were there a man came in with a live
eagle that he proposed to pit against the proprie-
tor's best bird. The old sport took him up at once
and the Roman-nosed bird of freedom was thrown
in with a healthy looking chicken that would have
fought a buzz-saw. The rooster made a dab at the
eagle, and that "fierce gray bird with a bending
beak" and an unwarranted reputation for game-
ness, ignominiously, ingloriously and incontinently
fled and hid under a chair, where he looked out in
a piteous sort of way and as good as said "Take
him off; I want to go home!"
Among the other things this man of sport had
was a badger that he was prepared to back for
large sums on the statement that no dog of
anybody's could take the beast out of a barrel
that lay lengthwise on the floor, with one head
knocked out and in which the badger was en-
sconsed. I had wondered why it was that Nye had
been coaxing an "onary" looking cur to follow us.
Now the problem was about to be solved. Nye
made a bet that he had a dog that would take the
badger out of the barrel. The money was "put
up" and Nye caught that dog by the "nap of his
neck and seat of his breeches," — so to speak, — and
threw him into the barrel, tail foremost. The
badger nabbed the dog by one ham and the dog
went right away from there like a blue streak,
taking the badger with him. The last that was
ever seen of that dog, or badger either, both were
going towards the North Platte River, the dog
making the best time he had ever made and the
badger hanging straight out behind, a close second.
AND 80 M E MORE 89
Nye introduced me to one of the cattle kings of
that country, who invited us into a neighboring
"joint" to get a cigar. This cattle king was called
major, and he was one of those persons who will
get to telling something and wander all over the
lace of the eartn, talking about all there is on its
surface, or in the waters beneatn or the heavens
above, and forget what they are talking about at
tne outset. The major began one of those stories.
"We started from Sherman on one of the hottest
days I think I ever saw. It gets as hot down in
Texas as any place except Yuma, Arizona. You
may have heard how hot it gets in Yuma — well,
an amusing thing happened tnat day. We had
among the cowboys an old Mexican. These cow-
boys are cowboys after they are eighty and ninety
years old. I saw a cowboy in California once who
was a hundred if he was a day. it's astonishing
how old these greasers get to be. I have traveled
a great deal in Mexico, and it don't occur to me,
just now where I ever saw a graveyard. Tnere's
the Tombstone district in Arizona, and I know
there isn't a tomb-stone in it. The people just dry
up and blow away, and maybe you think it don't
blow down there sometimes, but nothing like I
have seen it in Missouri. I saw a tornado once
tbat blew a baby over into Iowa, and the people
didn't know where the baby came from or who it
belonged to, but they raised it and he is voting the
republican ticket to this day; and it ain't naif
fair on Missouri, for the chances are that the baby
was born a Democrat. By the way, that just re-
minds me, do any of you know how the vote stood
between — "
At this juncture a cowboy came in and told the
major that he had been waiting for him long
enough. The major "treated" and went away, and
left that old Mexican cowboy down there, swelter-
ing in the saddle under the blazing sun of Texas.
Nye was honored by the people of Laramie fre-
quently in their choice of him for police justice.
Of that experience he wrote:
90 TEN WISE MEN
"It was really pathetic to see the poor little
miserable booth where I sat and waited with numb
fingers for business. But I did not see the pathos
which clung to every cobweb and darkened the
rattling casement. Possibly I did not know
enough. I forgot to say the office was not a
salaried one, but solely dependent upon fees. So
while I was called Judge Nye, and frequently men-
tioned in the papers with consideration, I was out
of coal half the time and once could not mail
my letters for three weeks because I did not have
the necessary postage."
The first time he was elected to that place Nye
went to a boot and shoe dealer whose name was
Kidd, and asked him to go on his official bond to
the extent of $200. It was a small sum, but Kidd
•was a small man. Nye had been a valuable cus-
tomer to Kidd. He bought all of his shoes from
him and that is saying a great deal; for it took a
large quantity of shoes to do Nye through the
year, or even through a minute, for it took a large
.entity of shoe to fit Nye.
Kidd rubbed his hands and said that no tiling
would give him more pleasure than to go on Judge
Nye's bond, but he had promised his dear, dead
mother on her dying bed, that he'd never go on
anybody's bond. He started out to be profuse in
his regrets that circumstances precluded this little
office of neighborly kindness, but Nye checked him
and said that if there was a man on earth whom
he admired and was especially and particularly
proud to call "friend," it was a man who respected
the wishes of his mother, particularly his dear,
dead mother, even in the matter of going on some-
body's bond. With a warm grasp of the hand, a
tear of kindly good feeling in his eye, and a heart
full of joy that on that day he had met such a
good man, Judge Nye went away and found some
one else to go on his bond who hadn't made any
maternal promises of that character.
And the court was herself again.
AN D SOME MORE 91
One beautiful winter day some weeks afterward,
when the mercury was at a point of many icy
degrees below zero, Judge Nye was sitting on a
case — that is, he was sitting close by it — when a
paper came up in the suit on which Kidd's name
appeared as surety for somebody.
The court took a recess.
Judge Nye, with a cold face and his arctic shoes
on, marched straight through that winter's day to
Kidd's store and called for his bill. There was a
look of sadness in his eye, mingled with contempt,
that made Mr. Kidd uneasy. Kidd suggested to
the Judge that there need be no hurry about the
bill; he would send it over some other time, but
Judge Nye was persistent. Kindly, but firmly, he
insisted on seeing his bill and when it came it was
not near as big as usual. That made Nye more
determined. He dug up its equivalent in eloquent
silver dollars. Mr. Kidd remonstrated and pro-
tested. He didn't need money just then. Any
other time would do just as well. He saw dark
foreboding in Nye's face. He looked at his good
customer's capacious feet and almost wept at the
thought of losing the contract to cover them in,
and there is wealth in big contracts. But Judge
Nye made him take the money. Kidd expostulated
and offered all sorts of apologies and explanations,
but Nye's obduracy could not be moved.
"I do not resent, Mr. Kidd, that you refused to
go on my official bond," Nye said, "There are num-
erous banks and other institutions of high finance
in this republic that are simply yearning to go my
security, but you have given me a painful shock.
You have deceived me, and when a man goes back
on his poor, dead mother, as you have done in this
affair, that is where I draw the line. Adieu, false
one, adieu." And thus he left the abject presence
of the humiliated shoeman. Nye's heart strings
were pulled as taught as the E string of a profes-
sional violin. He was sad, but as he passed Con-
nors — or rather as he didn't pass Connor's — he
chased away the sorrow that had fallen like a
shadow athwart his life.
TEN WISE MEN
"When a man goes "back on his poor, dead mother,
there is where I draw the line."
AND SOME MORE 93
Many times after that memorable day, did the
calculating Kidd attempt to reach across the
bloody sarcasm that separated him from Judge
Nye and Judge Nye's custom, but all in vain, for
with sad and dignified resolve the judge waved
back the soulless shoemaker to the very last. Nye
was right, and Kidd was left.
Bill Nye was born August 25, 1850, in Shirley,
Piscataquis County, Maine, not far from where an-
other great American humorist, Shaw — "Josh
Billings" — was born. He was not of kin to Senator
Nye of Nevada, and was in no manner associated
with the Nye made. famous in Bret Harte's poem,
"The Heathen Chinee."
Nye had said himself, that at the tender age of
two years he gently, but firmly took his parents
by the hand and led them away to the St. Croix
region of Wisconsin, where they might get on more
satisfactorily for all concerned.
As a boy Bill Nye had plenty of hard work and
very little schooling — though he attained in after
years much scholarship through diligent and sys-
tematic reading. When he was about seventeen
Nye was taken as a student by a country lawyer in
whose office running errands and sweeping out
formed the greater part of the curriculum. In
idle moments he read law, having access to what,
the lawyer was pleased to term his library. Of
this reading Nye has said:
"I could read the same passage today that I did
yesterday and it would seem as fresh at the second
reading as it did at first. On the following day I
could read it again and it would seem as new and
mysterious as it did on the preceding day."
At the age of twenty-five, Nye taught school for
a short time in Polk County, Wisconsin, and then
he went to Wyoming, taking with him little else
than the suit of clothes he wore, a heart as big as
charity itself, a strong energy, a pair of arctic over-
shoes, some cousfh balsam, a head full of good
sense and a soul full of the most inimitable humor.
He also had a trunk that he rode out on. He did
94 TEN W I SE MEN
not sit straddle of the trunk on the trip but for
a part of the way he gave the conductor the check
for the trunk and at Cheyenne a friend redeemed
that, releasing Nye, thereby, and his alleged ward-
At Laramie Nye tried practicing law, but soon
found that he was not getting anywhere near rich
enough. And yet Nye was not one of those persons
who desire the entire earth with a wire fence
around it. There were conditions in that region
at that time, that militated against great success,
in an individual way, in the practice of law.
Nearly every man was his own lawyer, in a way.
Thus there were too many lawyers.
A young and asoiring attorney would not much
more than get a client into his office, and besrin to
tell him all about the merits of his case before a
great mob of lawyers would come in with masks
on and take the client and the law into their own
hands and suspend the case and the client and
leave the young attorney feeless. Such things
made it necessary for Nye to do something else,
or live on air, and the air in that region is so
thin and rarified that it is altogether too light
for a constant diet for a healthy man, and Nye was
a healthy man then; so he took to writing for the
Sentinel. He was with that affair about a year
and the positinrt was not much better than prac-
ticing law, even '.rider the untoward circumstances
suggested. The Sentinel was a morning paper
which was printed the evening previous, and Doc
Hayford, a grim old man, who had a mania for
babies, was the editor and proprietor. Nye has
said about his former employer: "I don't know
whether he got into the penitentiary or the Green-
back party. All I know about it is that he was
sentenced to a life of solitary confinement. The
boys used to call him Deacon Hayford, to be sar-
castic; he was the wickedest man in Wyoming.
Still he was warm-hearted and generous to a
fault. He was more generous to a fault than he
ever was to anybody else. Especially his own
AND SOME M ORE 95
"He gave me $12 a week to edit the paper —
local, telegraph, selections, religious, sporting,
fashion, political and obituary. He said $12 was
too much, but if I would jerk the hand-press occa-
sionally and take care of his children, he would
try and stand it. Perhaps I might have been
there yet if I hadn't had a red-hot political cam-
paign and measles among the children at the same
time. You can't mix measles and politics. So I
said one day that I would have to draw the line
"I drew my princely salary and quit, having ac-
quired a style of fearless and independent jour-
nalism which I still retain. I can write up things
that never occurred with a masterly and graphic
hand. Then if they ever occur afterward, I am
rrateful: if not, I bow to the inevitable and smoth-
er my chagrin."
After leaving the Sentinel, Nve was elected
Police Justice of Laramie City, and then, as United
States Commissioner, notary nublic, postmaster,
snnerintendent of schools, member of the city coun-
cil, and one thing or another, he got along very
Bill Root, a jolly good fellow, and the wag of the
town, was his first inspiration. He told Nye that
he was the worst start for a lawyer that he had
ever seen, but thought he would make a great
humorist. Root would tell him coyote, cayuse.
cowboy, cattle and canine stories and Nye would
write them in his own inimitable vein. O. H.
Rothacker, then the editor of the Denver Tribune,
saw some of Nye's bright things and invited him
to write for the Tribune. This Nye did, and quick-
ly there came a demand for his matter from many
sources and in a little while he was famous. He
published a compilation of his humor in book
shape and called it "Bill Nye and Boomerang,"
and shortly afterward raised a stock company and
beean the publication of his daily paper, "The
Boomerang;." He was making that a remarkable
success when he was seized with Cerebro spinal
Meningitis and wase forced to quit work.
96 TEN WI 8 E M EN
After the "Death Valley" dramatic company col-
lapsed at Denver, which natural event occured
shortly after the incidents related at the beginning
of this chapter, I went to work on a Denver news-
paper and in a few months afterward was engaged
as "the staff" of a daily newspaper in Cheyenne.
Nye was now running the "Boomerang" some, and
it was running him some. Being neighbors, so to
speak, in that land of magnificent distances, we
often exchanged visits, for we had become devoted
Nye's editorial room was second floor front over
a livery stable, a fact that caused him to live in
mortal dread of hay fever. He had a sign at the
foot of the stairway advising those who chose to
come up more suddenly, to "Twist the tail of the
mule and take the elevator."
Once when I was visiting him, after he had
made this stable venture, he said, as soon as the
salutations had been made:
"Pitch in there, now, and write something to
help me out and we will go and have some fun."
"What shall I write about," he was asked.
"Oh write about a column," he replied.
So, I wrote about a column, gave it the head-
ing, "About A Column," and commented puon col-
umns. Soon we were out and Nye led the way to
the joys of the town.
One of Nye's funniest peculiarities was his
solemnity of look and sepulchral voice when he
was saying something that he knew to be unusual-
ly humorous. At such times he had a queer sort
of cross-eyed glint leftward.
A few steps from the door, on the occasion men-
tioned we met a man who stopped Nye to tell him
something about a citizen who had been thrashing
the wife of his bosom. Nye made a memorandum,
and as we walked along he said, in that sepulchral
voice and with that cross-eyed glint:
"That ain't right. It ain't right for a man to
lick his wife, like that. They are not doing that
now in the best circles."
AND SOME MORE 97
Nye would say things of this kind with an air
of so much earnestness that persons unacquainted
with his ways wauld look surprised — sometimes
injured — not understanding that he was simply
being facetious. Thus his humor was not always
fully apreciated by audiences when he "lectured."
For instance: Telling of his tribulations while
travelling when he was young, he said, in an ex-
planatory way: "Born as I was, in a private fam-
ily," there were those who looked at him in a man-
ner as if to say: "Well where else did the blame
fool expect to be born?" Telling something con-
cerning the old-time fashion of New Year calls,
when at almost every house stimulating drinks
were served to visitors, Nye said: "On last New
Year's Day I made a large number of calls — I am
told." The critics mentioned felt, doubtless, like
saying to him: "Don't you know — you blessed
idiot — about how many calls you made?"
Visiting me once in Denver, we sat talking of
matters in general, when my little six-year-old
daughter, teasing for some trinket, at last threw
her chubby arms around my neck and pleaded,
"You will, papa! won't you, pretty papa?" Nye
looked at her with a deep, sad sigh, and then, in
a voice of sepulchral warning, said, "Young man,
you ought to do something to break your child
of that tendency. She seems to be inclined to be
a humorist." I see the force of his joke every time
I look in a mirror, and my portraits emphasize it
Once, while standing with a friend at a prom-
inent point on top of Lookout Mountain, a young
guide told them that from this point of view they
could see seven states, viz: Tennessee, Virginia,
Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia
"Where's North Carolina?" Nye inquired.
The man pointed to a particular place in the
"What makes you think that is North Caro-
lina?" Nye asked.
TEN WISE MEN
Will Visscher. Eugene Field.
An Old Time Picture
AN D SOME MORE 99
"Oh, we know by the direction and the conforma-
tion of the mountains there," the man replied.
"Well, I know that is not North Carolina," Nye
declared, with some vehemence. "And you would
know it too, if you stopped to think. Here is a
map of the United States," — taking out a pocket
map — "and you can see that North Carolina is
pink. I live in that state considerably, and I've
helped to paint it red, but of course I go away
sometimes, and then it fades a little, leaving it
pink. No, sir, you can't stuff me that way. The
place you are pointing at, a color-blind man could
see, is purple."
Nye said those things so seriously that the man
was almost dazed. He gave Nye a puzzled look
and then went on pointing out other sisters in the
Shortly after that and but a few weeks previous
to his death, which sad event occurred February
22nd, 1896, at Asheville, North Carolina, he wrote
me at Montgomery, Alabama, saying, among other
things: "I have on my farm here a very promis-
ing field of young rye that looks as if it might run
about nine gallons to the acre. Come down or
come up, as the case may be."
After meningitis had driven Nye from the great
altitude of Laramie to a short sojourn at Greeley,
Colorado, in 1883, after having lost the Boomerang,
that has acted toward him like "the strange mis-
sile the Australian throws," he went to Wiscon-
sin and bought a home at Hudson, in the region
where he had been brought up. Here he did much
of his best work, for a few years, and that even-
tuated in his being called to New York City to
do exclusive writing for the Daily World, at a
princely salary. Much of this work was syndicat-
ed, however, and from the World it went to the
world. While here he prchased a beautiful home
on Staten Island. With the writing indicated, and
his lecture tours, for the most part with James
Whitcomb Riley, the poet, he won international
fame and fair fortune. During his residence at
100 TEN WI SE MEN
Hudson and before he met Riley, Nye had made
arrangements with this writer for a lecture tour,
but the threatening of a relapse of the spinal
trouble caused a cancellation of the dates and
when he recovered he and Mr. Riley joined forces
and started out together from New York under
the management of Major Pond of that city. How-
ever, I made a tour with Nye shortly after he and
Pending the time when the physicians had in-
hibited Nye from much travel I visited him at
Hudson, previous to which there had been some
correspondence of which the following letter is a
BILL NYE'S WINTER RESORT.
P. 0. Box 406.
Hudson, Wis., Jan. 31, 1884.
Your very cheering and highly funny account
of your celebration of the birth of a Dutch Baby
in a foreign tongue, was just received. You ought
to have handed that letter to the printer and done
some universal good with it.
By the way I ran across that lobster yarn on you
the other day in Texas Sittings from the N. Y.
Sunday Mercury. It had evaded me up to that
moment. I wrote you quite a letter care of Pretzel
the other day, having forgotten where you would
be at that time.
I am looking forward with much pleasure to
your visit here and so is my wife. She has spoken
several times about it and the fun she looks for.
We are staying at home prettly closely and hunger
for some new stories with a dash of Dutch or Irish
or nigger in them. That looks selfish of course
but we are all selfish more or less. However, you
needn't be the life of the party — if you don't feel
like it — though I hope you will feel like it. I've
got your show printing O. K. and its good, es-
pecially the large variety. It makes you look like
AND SOME MORE 101
John Quincy Adams making his famous charge of
The Six Hundred — dollars for services. I notice
that your eyes have grown black and ominous
since you got that lithograph made. They seem
to burn with a slumbering glitter of hell in their
murky depths. How's that? I thought of that my-
self. You probably think I got it out of a book
but I did not. I dashed it off this forenoon with-
out stopping for feed or water.
I address you at Indianapolis and though I can-
not join your troupe I fear, we will have a quiet
little reunion when you arrive here.
With Mrs. Nye's kind regards and my own, deep
I am Consecutively Yours,
The ten days that I spent as Nye's guest at Hud-
son was "one continual round of pleasure."
Away up in the forests of Wisconsin we visited
a lumber camp and spent the night. Nye had two
brothers there. One of the brothers was a clerk
for the lumber company and the other was a resi-
dent attorney. This attorney then a very young
man, was Frank M. Nye, now a member of Con-
gress from Minnesota, and certain to be a Senator
of the United States, in due time. The two broth-
ers, though both barely having reached manhood
in those lumber-camp days, gave evidence then
that keen wit and bright humor characterized the
Among the persons to whom Nye introduced me
in Hudson was an eccentric character of the vil-
lage in whom Nye took exhuberant delight. This
man had a way of inventing words to suit himself.
He talked very rapidly and yet always with great
seriousness. The old fellow was a bachelor of in-
dependent fortune and lived at the village hotel,
though he was much given to rambling abroad.
Lately he had made a visit to Washington, D. C.
and among the matters that had come under his
attention there he told us of these:
102. TEN WI 8 E MEN
"1 was at the post-mortis on the body of that
assassinatin' Guiteau, and if I ever saw a critter
that ort to have been suspendered it was him."
Ruminating for a moment, he continued then:
"But lemme tell you, gentlemen, the most comical-
ist and hisperatin' thing that I saw at Washing-
ton was this here Doctor Mary Walker a ridin'
a phelosipher." He meant a velocipede.
At Nye's home one Sunday, while we were
walking about the yard, he suddenly seized a
stick of stovewood and hurled it, apparently, at
an icicle of dangerous dimensions that hung from
the eaves over an outhouse door. I supposed that
he desired to knock the icicle off for fear that
sometime it might fall with a thaw and a thud
and hurt some one. But the stove stick missed
the icicle and descending killed a cat that was
standing, smiling in the sunshine and caressing
herself with the corner of the kitchen. Nye had
boasted of the unerring precision with which he
could hurl a stove stick, and I was therefore as-
tonished at the effect of the shot mentioned, when,
in a burst of confidence, he informed me that it
was his aim in life to kill that cat, and that he
had intentionally sent that death-dealer via the
icicle in order to more thoroughly surprise his
victim. Said he: "This house is a perfectly new
one, and I don't allow any old second-hand cat to
come in from a neighbor's and rub the paint off
of my homestead in the unfeelin' manner in
which that feline has been doing it."
In his domestic life Nye was one of the happi-
est men alive. His ever-helpful, sensible and
happy-hearted wife was always his best adviser
in business matters, and she enjoyed his humor,
that was perrenially spontaneous, as much as any
one else, even when it was good-naturedly at her
expense, which it frequently was, as for instance:
One evening during the Hudson visit, Mrs. Nye
was making some apologetic remarks about the
supper. "Yes," chimed in the humorist, "the
AND SOME MORE 103
chefess de cuisine had to be so long at the wash-
tub today that Mrs. Nye has kindly consented to
cook the cold meats for this occasion only."
Shortly after my return to Denver from the
visit to Nye at Hudson, while he was riding with
his brother Frank, one day, on a buck-board and
near the lumber camp, a cyclone lifted Bill out,
solus. It fondled him in its funnel and danced
him in the air, and swept the earth with him, to
some extent, and, finally, in its playful mood, de-
posited him on the ground with a broken leg. I
wrote him a letter of sympathy, but knowing that
he would get many letters on the subject, took
care to treat the matter in what I hoped would be
a novel style. He appreciated the effort and was
grateful. He wrote me: "If I ever have any in-
fluence in the New Jerusalem you shall some day
have a nice new harp that has never been played
on, and as pretty a 7.V& crown as there is on the
evergreen shore." Then, after alluding to his ac-
cident, he says: "My leg is growing together all
right, and the doctors say they will shortly turn
me loose on the community again. I've had a
long siege, and it seems tough at times, but I
never kick — fact is, I don't dare to. Many have
asked me how the thing happened. I cannot
state, definitely, but think I must have stepped on
a peel of thunder and slipped. People can't be
too careful, peeling their thunder, about leaving
the peels around where innocent and unsuspect-
ing persons may step on them and get hurt."
Nye's success did not change his awkward ways
and looks, materially, and he resented the results
therefrom among very flip hotel clerks and the
like — the cheap element that judges persons by
the cut of clothes and such.
One night Nye arrived at a hotel in a small
town in Illinois, and was assigned to a poor room on
the first floor counting from the sky — and there was
no elevator. In view of three flights of stairs — and
him tired, too — Nye was not pleased. Besides,
104 T EN W I 8 E MEN
Bill Nye (later on).
AND SOME MORE 105
the clerk, seeing that his lodger had no baggage,
except a sman handbag that he was hanging to
quite tenaciously, demanded his pay in advance.
Nye felt in his vest, and, taking out a thin roll
of bank notes, offered the clerk a note with the
$100 mark on it. The clerk 'couldn't change it,
and Nye offered a $50 note with the same result;
but as soon as the clerk had seen that Nye had
plenty of money, with the obsequiousness of his
class, he found he had overlooked a better room
which he could give to this moneyed stranger,
and that it was not really necessary to have his
pay in advance.
Nye looked at him queerly, and that cross-eyed
glint shot slantwise from the left side of his nose.
"You remind me very much of clay," he said to
"Who, Henry Clay?" the clerk asked, as if
"N-o-o," returned Nye, with his peculiar drawl.
"Just common clay — mud clay, you know. The
kind they make beanpots and such things from."
Then he went away to bed quite happy.
During several years of Bill Nye's life, when
the very strongest demands were being made upon
him, his health was frail and frequently it seemed
that he would not be able to stem the current.
In spite of his weakness and suffering he kept up
a cheery demeanor and from him came n con-
stant glow of good humor. He never laughed
boisterously but he wore a smile that would not
come off, and was ever the delight of those with
whom he was brought into social contact. Per-
sonally he was tall, bald, angular, somewhat awk-
ward in movement and would not have been
thought to be a beauty by the average young wo-
man. He had, bowever, a beauty of soul that
shone in his face and which was entirely satis-
factory to his friends.
Like all true humorists, Bill Nye had a tender
heart that was always bountiful in kindliness to
6 TEN WISE MEN
those who deserved and needed it. Frequently he
wrote to friends, under circumstances that de-
manded condolence, letters that conveyed the
gentlest, tenderest, sweetest sympathy. Upon the
death of a little daughter of Judge James Bel-
ford, the then famous Colorado Congressman, Nye
wrote that gentleman a letter so full and over-
flowing with the purest pathos and touching ten-
derness that Mr. Rothacker, who was a connoiseur
in the beauties of literature, sought and obtained
Judge Belford's permission to print the beautiful
and expressive missive in the Denver Tribune.
It was widely copied as an exquisite sample of
When Nye was winning his first gratifying
popularity as a humorous lecturer I wrote these
rhymes and sent them to him. They are not pre-
sented as anything worse than my most earnest
enemy might declare them, nor as fine as my most
enthusiastic and forbearing friend might wish
them to be, but simply as a way to end this
sketch that could be extended far beyond the
limit prescribed by the original plan of this work:
With No Evil Intent.
I've watched thy conspicuity,
It's growth and continuity,
And wished thy contiguity,
I've enjoyed thy lucidity,
And thine artless timidity,
Combined with intrepidity,
No other man's jocundity
Hath near so much profundity,
Nor yet the same rotundity,
AND SOME MORE 107
And thou findest it lucriferous —
The same as argentiferous —
While the cheering is vociferous,
But now, discarding levity;
Assuming proper brevity,
I wish to thee longevity,
And I'm praying, rever-ent-ly,
That the sweet subse-quent-ly
Will deal with thee most gently.
GEORGE WILBUR" I I ( F
GEORGE WILBUR PECK.
Father of "Peck's Bad Boy."
Rarely does the general public regard a man
as great in more than one thing. Many poets who
have each written numerous brilliant poems are
only remembered by one of them.
Witness Gray's "Elegy in a Churchyard."
Generally that poem is alluded to as "Gray's
Elegy." Few, comparatively, know that Thomas
Gray ever wrote anything else, and yet in his own
time his other poems were important factors in
establishing the high repute accorded to him then,
and still maintained, in the esteem of critics. He
was indeed a man of vast erudition, learned not
only in literature, but in botany, zoology, anti-
quities, architecture, art, history and philosophy.
He refused the post of poet laureate after the
death of Colly Cibber and was professor of modern
literature and languages in Cambridge Univer-
sity. Spenser's "Faerie Queene" is another in-
stance in the same line of evidence, and such
might be many times multiplied in polite litera-
ture. John Hancock is best, and for the most
part, remembered by his large and emphatic
signature leading the signers of the Declaration of
Independence. Benedict Arnold is only remem-
bered as a traitor. His greatness as an officer
in the Revolutionary War and as a companion
and compatriot of Washington was lost in his one
great infamy. Nero is only thought of as a cruel
tyrant who could riddle while imposing Rome was
burning. His love of music and his promotion
of art are over-looked.
So on, ad infinitum and recluctio ad absurdum.
110 TEN WISE MEN
But, gentle, — or wild — reader, did you ever hear
much of George Wilbur Peck, printer, writer, hu-
morist, soldier, patriot, mayor, governor, great
man in a hundred ways? Well, if you are his
personal friend, or a citizen of Wisconsin, yes.
If you are just the average, every day reader and
But did you ever hear of "Peck's Bad Boy?"
Whoop-ee! Ha-ha! yes! Rather!
George Wilbur Peck was the father, author,
inventor, promoter and printer of "Peck's Bad
Boy." Now you begin to get an inkling of the in-
dividual with whom this section of this history
has most to do. The clue will lead you to know
all about him, then you will know much that is
good to know.
George Wilbur Peck was born at Henderson
N. Y., in 1840 and quite early in life he learned
to be a first-class printer. At twenty he owned
a half interest in a newspaper — "The Republican"
of Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Jefferson was a bigger town then than were
Kansas City and Omaha put together. Hundreds
of today's big cities of the West had not even
been started. But perhaps Jefferson was like a
man who boasted that he was a fine jumper, ex-
cept that he "lit too quick." However, Jefferson
is not so insignificant. It "lit" somewhat sud-
denly, but perhaps the owners of the place did
not wish it to become a great, roaring Babylon,
with greedy grafters, and sad-eyed straphangers,
and self-seeking reformers, and street apaches
that run over folks with cabs, and wagons, and
auto-cars. Possibly those pioneers did not hanker
after any of the evils that ramify metropoli.
Anyhow, George Peck did not wait to see what
Jefferson was going to do about those things.
"Father Abraham" began calling for men to get
shot at for divers and sundry reasons, and Peck
responded, on horseback. He went as a private
in the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry, won some better
spurs than the common iron things that an en-
AND SOME MORE 111
listed man wears, and came home when the
trouble was over, with shoulder-straps and an
officer's gold-mounted sword, a good record and
a heart full of peace and charity.
He has the heart yet.
When Peck and peace had got settled down,
after the war, Peck started a newspaper at
Ripon, Wisconsin. "The Representative," the
paper was named. Shortly afterward he got rid
of that and owned the LaCrosse Democrat with
which, aforetime, "Brick" Pomeroy had caused
trouble for himself — and others. In 1874 Peck
established the "Sun at LaCrosse and in 1878
moved it to Milwaukee and called it "Peck's
Sun." About this time he invented "Peck's Bad
Shortly after Mr. Peck started the Sun in Mil-
waukee the weather about that solar system be-
came so cloudy that the Sun was threatened with
total obscuration. The clarifying air of advertis-
ing patronage did not prevail in sufficient volume
to rarify the financial density, and one day Mr.
Peck sat in his office with gloomy forebodings, a
depleted bank account and other such uncheerful
company. The Sun had begun to look like an-
other case of try-weekly that comes out one week
and tries to come out the next.
During his brief habitation of Milwaukee Editor
Peck had found himself called upon to Sun-burn
certain local politicians. Among those was a
prominent dealer in fresh and cured meats whom
he had never met, personally.
While the editor sat in his un-easy chair con-
templating with deep dejection the unpromising
situation a large and dangerous looking man
came in. This ominous person wore the habili-
ments of a butcher and upon them in dry crimson
were the stains that come from his calling.
"Are you the editor of this paper?" he asked
Mr. Peck, in what seemed to the newspaper man
to be unnecessary tartness of tone.
"I am," Mr. Peck very modestly admitted.
112 TEN WI SE MEN
"I'm a butcher," the man declared.
"I see you are. Want to butcher some here?"
the editor inquired.
The butcher smiled, somewhat grimly, it seemed
"No," he continued. "I like your paper and I
want a half page advertisement of my business
in it. What will a half page cost for a year?"
Editor Peck fell to figuring and announced the
"All right," said the butcher. "And I'm too
busy to be bothered with bills. Gimme a blank
The blank was produced and the butcher filled
in the amount necessary to pay for the half page
for a year.
"You'll find it all right at the bank. I'm pooty
As the butcher blew out at the door the clouds
blew away from the Sun and the editor heaved a
sigh of several kinds of relief.
"Peck's Sun" was a phenomenal success. It went
everywhere in the land and it shone brightly. It
carried health and happiness in its beams and it
fairly blazed with humor. George Peck wrote
nearly everything in it. He worked like a mill-
wheel, as steadily and continuously and he grew
in wealth and popularity.
One day in Denver, in the early '80s, I sat with
him in the office of F. J. V. Skiff, manager of the
Tribune. Eugene Field and Ottomar Rothaker
were there and Peck told how the "Sun" rose;
how it came out and scattered the clouds — for
there were great banks of threatening clouds —
that at times almost kept the sun from shining;
how, at last, it brought him a beautiful home in
Milwaukee and influence at the bank, a yacht on
Lake Michigan and a "common of piscary" that
even gave him right to go "a fishin' " week days,
if he wished; how it brought him unlimited rail-
road passes, and other kinds of passes, so that
he could travel over Colorado, all of the United
AND SOME MORE 113
States and some parts of New Jersey, from Dan
to Beersheba and from Podunk to Kalamazoo,
and he could go to any show that he cared to see,
and he liked to go to the circus and take the
George Peck, who had once — and for a long
time — wondered who was hiding all the money
and where they hid it, sat cross-legged like a
tailor, on manager Skiff's table and reveled in the
relation of those things.
Then Skiff said to me: "Why don't you do
something like that?"
I did. I started a paper after the manner of
Peck's Sun and called it "Hello." It was a won-
drous success for six weeks. When the first edi-
tion came out we had to tear the wrappers from
the copies that had been done up for mailing to
desired exchanges, and as samples, and sell them
to newsboys who gathered about the man who
dealt the papers out like monkeys around a bag
of chestnuts — and there was not a "chestnut" in
the paper — until they crowded the man off of
his perch and we had to build a kiosk in which he
could lock himself for the sale of future editions.
That night I went miles away to find a paper
dealer who had gone home and to the neace and
comfort thereof, routed him out, brought him
down to his warehouse and from there I carried
on my shoulders bundles of paoers. — more of
them and a greater distance than Franklin wheel-
barrowed his justly celebrated lot, — to the press
For a few weeks my business partner and my-
self could see the yacht "come a sailin' in," trips
around the world, palaces and things. But, alas!
the business man was taken down with measles —
miserable measily measles! — and he came near
dying. His interest was bought by a man who
would queer a harvest in a good season. In a
little while "Hello" became a faint echo: the cir-
culation was short-circuited and nothing ever
came from the "receiver." "Bout ship!" went
114 TEN WISE MEN
the yacht, foreign trips were cancelled, even the
mirage of the palaces faded away beyond the
clouds of Spain and the man kicked the kiosk
over. The boys didn't even come around to roll
it about. But we had Peck's Sun on the "ex-
change list" long after we had anything to ex-
Afterward Peck was tumultuously elected
mayor of Milwaukee — that is to say, in 1890 —
then in 1891 he was elected Governor of Wiscon-
sin for four years. The Sun set but Peck's Bad
Boy went on. He is going yet. He went into
a book and he was dramatized; lately he has
broken out fresh in the comic pictures of Sunday
editions of sundry newspapers. He is still a boy
who has found the spring of perpetual youth.
But George Wilbur Peck is yet in Milwaukee — not
still in Milwaukee, for now and then he comes
out, there or elsewhere, long enough to make a jolly
speech, or a Democratic speech, to a symposium
of jolly people or a batch of the class of politi-
cians indicated by the speech in that line men-
tioned. But Peck is still in Milwaukee enjoying,
for the most time, the evening of life and his
otium cum dignitate — whatever that is. He is
vigorous, hale and happy and frequently goes
"a fishin.' " He is modest in the days of his years
and he will talk more unreservedly of anything
than of himself.
When he learned that this author desired to
write this sketch he said:
"I once owned a trotting horse that I sent to
Tom Duafor to have him trained. Tom kept the
horse a spell and the animal seemed to go slower
every time I held the watch on him. Finally I
asked Tom what he thought was the trouble^
Tom said: 'George, that horse seems to dwell.' I
thought I could see that my horse seemed to
'dwell' and I sold him to a man who rather
enjoyed having a horse dwell.
"I am the worst hand to write an obituary of
myself that ever was. I do not know what you
AND SOME MORE 115
want for your book, but I would rather have a page
of your imagination about me than a volume of
facts. I could enjoy your pipe dreams about me
while facts in regard to my career would drive me
"You know all about me — that is all that I care
to have known. I was a good book and job printer,
and newspaper man, but was spoiled by trying
politics and so forth; spoiled for a printer because
my hands got soft and my heart got hard; spoiled
as a politician because I never knew much about
the game and did not want to learn.
"I guess, after I am dead some of the boys who
keep on living, will say that I was honest in poli-
tics and knew quite a little about public affairs,
that by trying to run the affairs of state as eco-
nomically as I would a country printing office the
people were saved money and were reasonably
happy — when I got out.
"I have not kept any of the good things that
have been said about me, but I have kept most of
the bad things and they fill a big trunk, and they
make me laugh. Every little while some fellow
that abused me comes along and acts as though
he wanted to stay mad. I say: 'Hello, Bob!' and
laugh at him and ask about his family. He
chokes up and says : 'George, I treated you cussed
mean.' Then I say: 'Forget it, old man and let's
go a-fishin'.' From that out we are better friends
"If I can live long enough to make all the fellows
that were saucy to me in the political days, come
into camp and say: 'Old boy, we are just begin-
ning to appreciate that you were not half bad,' I
shall give Methuselah a run on the old age graft
he has had so long.
"So, William, you can fix me up in your book
from your memory, and it will be all right."
The following is Governor Peck's opinion of
women doctors as printed in the "Sun."
"Shall farmers employ female doctors?
"I should say, in answer to this great question,
116 TEN WISE MEN
that a farmer, if there was nothing the matter
with him, might call in a female doctor; but if he
was sick as a horse — the last thing he should have
around would be a female doctor, and why? Be-
cause when a man wants a female fumbling
around he wants to feel well. He don't want to
be bilious, or feverish, with his mouth tasting like
cheese, and his eyes bloodshot, when a female is
looking over him and taking an account of stock.
"Of course female doctors are all young and
good looking, and if one of them came into a sick
room where a farmer was in bed, and he had chills,
and was as cold as a wedge, and she should sit up
close to the side of the bed, and take hold of his
hand, his pulse would run up to a hundred and
fifty and she would prescribe for a fever when he
had chilblains. Then if he died she could be
arrested for malpractice. O, you can't fool us
farmers on female doctors.
"We have all seen doctors put their hands
under the bedclothes and feel a farmer's feet to
see if they were cold. If a female doctor should
do that, it would give a farmer cramps in the legs.
"A male doctor can put his hand on a farmer's
stomach and liver, and lungs, and ask him if he
feels any pain there, but if a female doctor should
do the same thing it would make him sick, and he
would want to get up and kick himself for eniDloy-
ing a female doctor. Oh! there is no use talking,
it would kill a farmer — a female doctor would!
"Now suppose a farmer had heart disease, and
a female doctor should want to listen to the beat-
ing of his heart. She would lay her right ear
on his left breast, so her eyes and rosebud mouth
would be looking right into his face, and her wavy
hair would be scattered all around there, getting
tangled in the buttons of his night shirt. Don't
you suppose his heart would get in about twenty
extra beats to the minute? You bet! And she
would smile — we will bet ten dollars she would
smile — and show her pearly teeth, and her red
lips would be working as though she were count-
And som e m ore 117
ing the beats, and he would think she was trying
to whisper to him, and —
"Well, what would he be doing all this time?
If he was not dead yet, which would be a wonder,
his left hand would brush the hair away from her
temple, and his right hand would get sort of ner-
vous and move around to the back of her head,
and when she had counted the heart beats a few
minutes and was raising her head, he would draw
the head up to him and kiss her once for luck, if
he was as bilious as a Jersey swamp angel, and
have her charge it in the bill; and then a reaction
would set in and he would be as weak as a cat, and
she would have to fan him and rub his head until
he got over being nervous, and then make out her
prescription after he got asleep. No; all of a
man's symptoms change when a female doctor is
practicing on him, and she would kill him dead.
"These women colleges are doing a great wrong
in preparing these female doctors for the war path,
and we desire to enter a protest in behalf of
twenty million of farmers who could not stand
At this writing, speaking to Opie Read of Gov-
ernor Peck, Mr. Read in his own lucid, graphic
and genial way said this to me:
"At some of the universities there may be pro-
fessors of literature who would not regard George
Peck as a man of letters. These professors, being
teachers, believe that one may learn to write.
And this is true. Any man who learns to talk
politely can learn to write grammatically,
smoothly, gracefully. This is the aim and is fre-
quently the achievement of a university education.
But is there a school in which a man may learn to
invent? Is there a class room in which imagina-
tion is born? Taine says that the province of
genius is to create; and creation is a long journey
from the acquired faculty of the critic.
"Peck is a creator. He painted portraits that
were never painted before from models that came
into the studio of his fancy. Nor is his paint
118 TEN WISE MEN
crude. His colors are like the colors of the
seasons — always harmonious. The fact is that few
men have written purer Anglo-Saxon than George
Peck. Some of his sentences ring like a stroke
upon a bell. His humor is distinctively American,
whimsical and nervous. His lights and his shad-
ows dance together, one whirling the other about
in a waltz. His fun is as natural and as spontane-
ous as a childhood prank. Ah! and his nature,
how warm and glowing! What a delight it always
is to meet him, to hear his voice, more than half
music, and to grasp his hope-giving hand! The
ill-wind that has blown us no good does not change
his friendship for us. He is always the same — a
/':'■•■ l ■ , ■ : , .j , . , j| ; ' ; ■ i
OPIE READ— A FAMOUS NOVEL WRITER.
"You must know Opie Read, the editor of the
Arkansaw Traveler," said Eugene Field to me one
day in the summer of 1887. "He is one of our kind
of people. He has brought his paper from Little
Rock and it is printed here in Chicago, now, and
has 60,000 circulation."
Through the freemasonry of newspaperdom I
had been acquainted with Read several years but
had not met him personally.
Field took off his zebra-striped suit, donned his
street apparel and together we sallied down La
Salle avenue, took a lift in a sky-scraper and were
soon in the presence of the Southern humorist
and romancer. Instantly Read and myself be-
came friends and that friendship has lasted, unre-
mittingly through all the years since, almost phe-
Physically, Read was astonishing. Six feet
three inches tall, heavily built, weighing about
two hundred and fifty pounds and without an
ounce of surplus flesh, he seemed a giant. Upon
his head was a broad-brimmed, western hat that
sat where it landed without trimming, upon a
great mass of black hair that was tousled like a
fodder shock after a windstorm.
This was before Read had won fame as a writer
of fiction. Now, however, his success as a writer
of American, especially southern, romance is es-
tablished. He won people long ago; now he has
won the critics and his books come fast — and go.
Not long ago I asked him how it came about
that he should write novels.
"I was born that way," he said. "At our home,
when I was a boy, were several of my nephews.
122 TEN WISE MEN
They were a few years younger than myself, and
to tell them stories was my assignment. They
would ask my father to make me tell them stories,
and he did. I don't know why. He had never
heard me tell a story."
"And that didn't set you against it?"
"No; I liked it. At last I told them a serial
story. It took a long time — about two years, I
think, but I had an inexhaustible theme. The
title of it — if it had one — was 'Robert the Good
Shooter.' This Robert was a wonder. He and
his party had a hunting car, and that car was
more than a wonder. It was outfitted with power-
ful engines, and at the will of the occupants big
saws and axes, worked by machinery, were swung
out in front and along the sides, and when the
car struck the woods it simply cut its way
through, slashing trees and undergrowth in all
directions, except toward the car. When it came
to a river, up flew some sides, like the gunwales
of a boat, and the car plunged over the water
faster than any steamboat you ever heard of.
Then it ran up the bank as if it were a wagon on
a fair hill road, with a strong team hitched to it.
Fact is that car didn't stop for anything, except
when Robert and his men wished to have it stop."
"Where did you get the idea of the hunting-
"Don't know. It just came to me, I suppose.
Of course it was an echo of something. I had
been reading about the chariots of ancient gods
and conquerors that had big knives and wings
attached; and warriors fighting with bows and
arrows, clubs, javelins and what not, and I sup-
pose it was that."
"But what did Robert hunt?"
"Oh, bears and buffaloes, elk, deer, indians,
runaway negroes, foxes, wolves, squirrels, rabbits
— nearly anything that he took a notion to hunt —
tigers, lions, elephants and mastadons, some-
"Well, how did you get to writing?"
AND SOME MORE 123
"I persuaded my father to let me go to work in
a printing office, and I had novel-writing in my
head all the time. I learned printing and went to
college and set up the type of the college maga-
zine. Afterward I got into the newspaper busi-
ness, but always with the idea of writing books.
I knew well enough that after I had written a
book I would have a hard time getting a publisher,
so I cultivated the guild, and by the time the first
book was ready the publisher was ready also. As
soon as one of the books became somewhat suc-
cessful I quit newspapers, as I had always intend-
ed to do, except as a contributor."
"How many books have you written?"
"Too many, probably. Some of them I have
suppressed. They were pulled before they were
"How long do you intend to continue novel
"Long as they want them and I feel able."
"Of course you like it?"
"If I didn't I would saw wood or something."
"Will you ever write any other kind of a book
than a novel?"
"Not if I can help it, and I think I can. But
say, this begins to sound like a catechism. Would
you like to know who were my sponsors in bap-
Read has the reputation, among those who see
him frequently and who know him least, of being
indolent. He is, in fact, one of the most inces-
sant workers in the literary field. His very recrea-
tions are taken in the interest of his work. He
tells stories at his club to the knots of men who
draw their chairs up to his to listen, and .he does
that to keep his fancy at work. He reads the
heaviest, strongest and most volumnious books,
and then re-reads them. Gibbon, Macaulay, Mot-
ley, Carlyle, Hume, are his best friends, and he
loves Shakespeare. He is familiar with all the
great poets, and Taine he knows by heart. These
TEN WISE MEN
AND SOME MORE 125
he goes to for strength and style. Comparatively
he reads little of fiction. That is his slave.
Almost anybody that can read will become fond
of Opie Read's books if he takes one of them up,
but to the persons who are familiar with the
scenes and characters from which his stories are
drawn, they are an unspeakable delight, and what
is more, they excite wonder as to how he accom-
plishes their pervading feature, the soft and gentle
realism that is in them. One would be laughed at
if he should propose to create the air and trans-
port it. If that could be done we would have
cool sea breezes and the grateful odors of the
woods brought to the stifling city, and save all the
expense of summer resorting, so far as its actual
necessity is concerned, just as we obtain- the
waters of healing springs in imported bottles and
casks. The other is out of the range of human
But Opie Read brings to those who know of it
the very atmosphere of the region concerning
which he writes. At least it seems that he does,
and that which seems to be real is real enough
for all intents and purposes, as applied to the
When Read was nine years old I was nearly
nineteen, and that was in the early months of the
civil war, that is to say, after the war had reached
Kentucky. It had been going on in Virginia some
months before Kentucky accepted the disturbance
as an established fact, for they who can remem-
ber those days will also remember that Kentucky
declared for "armed neutrality" at the beginning
of the affair. The State authorities proposed in
short that Kentucky should form a hollow square,
face outwards and lick both sides if they dared
attempt to invade her sacred borders. This idea
finally gave way to the exigencies of the times
and some of the choicest battles of the season
were fought on Kentucky soil.
A strange haze came over Kentucky, and in-
deed, the whole South; a sort of country Sunday
126 TEN WI SE MEN
quiet; a something in the air indescribable. I was
a soldier in Kentucky, and saw it and felt it.
Opie Read was a child in Tennessee, but in "My
Young Master," the scene of which is laid in Ken-
tucky, Read has made palpable that atmosphere.
He has caught it between the covers of that book,
and when one who knew it and was of it allows
the letter-text to penetrate his intelligence the
whole business comes back to him.
This is the sublimation of art.
There is an odor about a battle-field during the
fight, and immediately afterward, that is not
known elsewhere. I have often wondered if even
a suggestion of it will ever come to me again. I
thought that possibly Hugo's Waterloo in "Les
Miserables," or Stephen Crane's battle sketch in
the "Red Badge of Courage" might bring the sug-
gestion. They did not, but if Opie Read ever
writes a battle I shall expect it. What he has
done in "My Young Master," "A Kentucky
Colonel," "The Jucklins," and> indeed, in every
book he has written, warrants the belief.
In those books you may taste the honey-dew;
you can see a squirrel squat and hide in the forks
of a tree; a 'possum, lonesome and listless, hangs
by the prehensile end of his tail to the limb of
a paw-paw bush; a drop of rain spatters in the
living velvet of a rose; the scent of tobacco and
the whitish hue of its smoke comes from the
corn-cob pipe and the lips of a "po' white" woman;
the plaintive, faraway call of a dove, deep in the
woods, is heard; the melancholy pipe of a whip-
poorwill comes from a thicket, at night, and in
the evening the chatter of tree-frogs is heard;
the rustle of a woman's starched skirt is near;
the bay of hounds, on the ' trail of a fox, comes
down a wooded hollow; the red tassel of the iron-
weed bends in the light wind that blows across
blue-grass pastures; a meadow-lark sings his
first spring-song, short, yet full of soulful melody.
Read knows the woods, the fields, the swamp,
the city, the hearts of men and women, and he
AN D SOME MORE 127
tells of all these things in simple and unmistak-
able language. You do not think of rhetoric, or
diction, or prose, or poetry, when you read his
print. You see things. He does not make pic-
tures of things. He makes things.
When one reads with that man he does not
know where to quit writing of what he has read,
and yet he almost despairs at the outset of a
place to begin.
Watch him as the decade runs to its last sun-
set. The long shadows of his literature will
reach far into the hereafter.
As a man of the every day, Read is singularly
prejudiced and strangely just, paradoxical as that
may seem. I think his prejudices are assumed
for the fun he gets out of that sort of perversity.
His justice is real, unyielding and arbitrary. He
will nag a friend to desperation. Let somebody
else attempt the same thing in his presence, he
becomes almost terrible to the man who dares
to even so much as prick the sensitiveness of
that friend. If he does not like you he would
scorn to give you the attention that comes with
Notwithstanding that Read is almost a giant,
he is not ponderous. He walks with a strong
tread and yet his step is quiet. He is handsome,
but his clothes do not seem to fit him, yet he is
graceful. He is as strong as he is big, but he is
quiet and gentle in a manly way. His tender-
ness is always timely, but I have seen him go
into a dentist's shop and call for a pair of for-
ceps, and while the dentist was proffering his
services, Read fastened the forceps to an offend-
ing molar and wrenched it out, throwing it into
the grate with the remark: "Now ache if you
choose," then washed his hands with cold water,
and walked out with a pleasant "Good-day" re-
suming the previous conversation.
Opie Read was born in Nashville, Tennessee,
and was reared on a farm at Gallatin, in the same
State, near the Kentucky line. He was not fond
TEN WISE MEN
AND SOME MORE 129
of the farm, at least not of its drudgery, and he
learned to be a printer. After his school days,
at a now defunct rural college, he became one
of the editors of the newspaper — the Patriot, at
Franklin, Ky. — on which he had learned type-
setting. The newspaper became a financial fail-
ure in the hard times following the money panic
of 1873, and Read walked away. He walked to
Arkansas, but he set type at intervals on news-
papers along the line of march. On this trip Read
started with a carpet bag in which was an un-
abridged dictionary that he had won by writing
the best essay on the work, and a few other
books: These he parted with for food as he jour-
neyed, retaining the ditcionary as the last, but
finally he gave that up for a coarse meal at a
coarse farm-house, and a piece of meat and bread
wrapped in a newspaper, that he carried in the
carpet-bag until consumed. Then he threw the
carpet-bag away, and went on unhampered. For
a time he and his companion-printer started news-
papers, here and there in Arkansas, but finally
Read went to work as a writer on the Little
Rock Gazette. In that city he was married to
Miss Julia Benham, and he and his brother-in-
law, Philo Benham, established the Arkansas
Traveler, a humorous weekly that obtained na-
tional fame. It grew so that they took the pub-
lication to Chicago, and it succeeded until Read
began to write novels that succeeded. Then the
Traveler was sold to a syndicate that published
ever so many class periodicals and the Traveler
traveled out of sight. When it lost Read it lost
its soul, and it has probably gone to where all
the lost souls go.
Opie Read has since won international recogni-
tion as a writer of fiction. He has written about
thirty novels, some of which are published in
England by A. & C. Black, the extensive London
publishing firm, and the British critics are amaz-
ingly kind to Mr. Read.
They who read Opie Read's books may think
they have some idea of the man's mentality, but
130 TEN WISE MEN
it cannot be obtained that way. One must be
personally acquainted with him. He is one of
the most interesting conversationalists to be met
with in a lifetime. Association with him is a
literary school, and yet he doesn't "talk shop."
He seems to have read everything and remem-
bered it. He shows this in his every day con-
versation and without the slightest pedantry or
affectation. No matter what the subject under con-
sideration, he talks of it glibly and yet wisely
from the standpoint of those who have made it a
study, seasoned with his own common sense and
logic. He is not a politician; on the contrary,
rather dislikes political affairs, but he talks of
such matters with a clearness, force and spirit
that would lead you to believe he has made a
special study of parties, their men and measures,
of centuries, and that he is altogether a past
master of political economy. It is a part of the
man's wide curriculum. He is entirely at home
in what is best for one to eat, and is versed in
hygienics, but suffers from indigestion. He is
informed upon the conventionalisms of high life
yet avoids conventional society. He gives strong
reasons for pessimism and is a pratcical optimist.
He loves literature, but would not allow the great-
est author in the world to read a manuscript to
him. He is really more fond of music than any
other man I ever saw, and knows not a note of
it, though he will catch an air the first time he
hears it. He loves art, especially in painting, but
he doesn't even write a good hand, though it is
very plain. He is an ardent admirer of women,
but does not dance attendance upon them. With
all this he is great in body, intellect and soul.
When Opie Read was a boy of little more than
nine years, during the Civil war, he rode into
battle behind a Confederate bugler, on the same
horse! The bugler was shot dead and tumbled
from his seat. Opie clambered into the empty
saddle and looked around. The scrambled mass
of blue and gray was gone. He was in an open
AND SOME MORE 131
field. He saw a meadow-lark light on a swaying,
red-tasselled iron weed, and heard the bird
sing its summer song. He knew then that the
battle had ended, and he rode home on the dead
Read revels in negro dialect and the patois
of the "po' white," the "cracker" of Georgia and
the "clod-hopper" of Kentucky and Tennessee.
In speaking of the black people he calls them
"negroes," with the peculiar accent of the south-
erner, and never as "niggers." This is a dis-
tinction that, among persons of Read's generation
and the generations before him, almost invariably
marked in one way the difference between well-
bred and ill-bred southerners.
"Read's roost" is the name of a certain lounge
at the rooms of the Chicago Press club, where
the novelist rests a great part of the time when
down in the city, and where he smokes "Wheel-
ing stogies" and builds his books.
But when it is seen that he is willing to have
company, which is pretty much any time, half
a dozen chairs are drawn up about him, occupied
by club mates, eager to hear him talk, for his
conversational powers are wonderful, and he is
Frequently he tells stories which are embellish-
ments of incidents that occurred in his newspa-
per days, down south. Once he told this story:
"Jim Holmes printed the 'Beacon' at Camden,
Ark. I was working on the Little Rock Gazette.
Holmes and I had frequent spats at each other.
We had never met. One time I said in the paper:
" 'When Jim Holmes went to Camden he was
poor and honest. He is still poor.'
"That was too much for Holmes and he started
for Little Rock, ostensibly to thrash me. I hap-
pened to be at the railway station when Holmes
got there. He was the picture of wrath — and an
Arkansaw country editor — and he bad a revolver
hanging on one hip that was so big it sagged
him down on that side.
132 TEN WI SE M EN
"'Do you live here?' he asked me.
"I told him that I did.
" 'Well, say, you look like our sort of people.
Let's take a drink.'
"We did. I reciprocated, and he repeated. That
sort of thing- continued through many rounds and
far up the street. Meantime he had imparted to
me, as a friend, the business that had brought
him there, and I had agreed to show him the
way to the Gazette office, and in fact, to accom-
pany him. When we reached the editorial rooms
no one else was present, and we sat down. I
found a box of cigars and a 'wicker-kivered' de-
canter, which we discussed, and Holmes swore him-
self in as my friend.
" 'But you seem to be mighty much at home
around here,' he said.
"I told him I ought to be, as I worked there
when not entertaining friends from the country.
About this time the galley boy came in and
" 'Mistah Read, his nobs says det if he doan git
some copy fum you pooty soon he's goin' to sen'
de prints home tell after supper.'
" 'Are you Opie Read?' Holmes asked.
" 'That's who I am. How do you like the out-
"He took a glance at my size then said:
" 'Well I'll be blamed. That's one on me.
"And we shook."
Short things, like this that follows, run through
Read's brain, wantonly:
"I was riding one night on a Little Rock horse-
car. 'Biff! Bang!' something struck the car. An
old negro had landed on the platform. He looked
about with a scared expression and said:
"'Somebody's done robbed me! Yes dey is!
Somebody done stud me up agin a wall, out dar,
an' tuck two dollahs an' six-bits away fum me!
Dat ain no way to ack in a town lak dis.' "
AN D SOME MORE 133
Another mood will turn Read to the invention
and relation of an incident like this:
"Man in a Texas town — border of Arkansaw,
Big bully, out for a spree. Real bad man, swing-
ing along plank sidewalk. Six-shot gun and two-
pound bowie in his belt. Men go around him.
Huge negro meets him and does not give way;
walks straight ahead. Bad man surprised.
Draws back his knotted fist and plants it crusningly
on the negro's mouth. Negro in severe pain
throws up his black hands, and from his bleed-
ing and trembling lips come the words:
" 'Scuse me, marster. I didn't mean no harm.
I'se blind, you see.'
"Instantly the desperado of the man is gone.
He changes into a tender hearted human being.
"'Great God! Old man forgi' me. I didn't
know you wuz afflicted that way. Come with
me.' And takes the blind negro's arm and leads
him to a saloon first, of course. 'Here, give this
man a place to wash his mouth, then give him a
slug of the best you've got in your old she-
"These things being properly attended to, he
takes the blind negro to a clothing store.
" 'Here, fit this man, from hat to shoes, in the
best you've got in your shop.'
"As he leads the blind negro, now a man and
a brother, from place to place, filling his pockets
with confections and toys for his children and
nick-nacks and bandanas for his 'ole 'oman,'
ladies on the street remark, 'What a kind-heart-
ed gentleman that is.' 'See how he cares for that
poor, blind negro.' "
No writer gets closer to nature in his work than
does Opie Read. Somebody has said, "Truth is
stranger than fiction," but somebody else has
said, and more to the point, that "The truths of
fiction are the strongest truth." Opie Read says,
"Fiction is a stronger light thrown upon truth,"
and there is evidence of this in Read's every
134 TEN WISE MEN
Sometimes this man writes in verse, but only
for amusement, and always in dialect. Even in
that he makes pictures of nature as the strongest
photograph, — stronger, indeed, for he gives the
most faithful shadings, tintings and colorings.
Here is one of his little darkey sketches in
rhyme that illustrates how faithfully he portrays
nature, even in its homeliest moods, and it also
shows how humor and pathos commingle in his
work, proving once more that the two are of a
"Siamese twindom," in that one cannot live apart
from the other: —
WEN DE COL' WIN' BLOWS.
Hit woan he long fo' de col' win' blows,
Wid its bref so cuttin' an' so keen,
Er whirlin' an' er rattlin' de ole dry leaves
Dat once was so pooty an' so green.
De ole hen's chickens is all done hatch,
And some on em's larnt how to crow;
Dat sassy young dominicker '11 come down a peg
W'en he freeze bofe feet in de snow.
De ole 'scovey duck will feel mighty bad
W'en deys ice on de water by de mill;
De po' ole critter '11 ha' ter wait for a thaw,
Fo' she tote a lump er mud on ner bill.
De hawgs squeals loud w'en de fros' 'gin to fall,
An' dey crowds one nuther in de pen;
One doan keer if tother gwinter freeze, —
Hawgs, dey's mighty like men.
De leaves comes 'cross de ole graveyard,
W'en de col' win' rars en raves;
Dey whirls an' rattles on de frozen groun',
Den settles in de sunken graves.
Dey puts me in min' of de chillen of de yearth —
De moanful 'dition of us all;
Deys fresh an' green in de spring of de year,
But dey settles in de grave in de fall.
AN D 80 ME MORE 185
In a Laird & Lee edition of his books, up to
the autumn of 1896, given to me by Mr. Read, he
wrote in each volume an epigrammatic estimate
Following are copies of those estimates, under
the respective titles. As Read is his own most re-
lentless critic, this summary should be considered
a very correct one:
Of "Emmett Bonlore," Mr. Read says: "With
the exception of another story — 'nameless here
for evermore' — this book is my first, and into it
I have put myself; and, therefore, it is full of
faults. But I have a fondness for 'Bonlore.' "
He says of "Len Gansett," his second book:
" 'Len Gansett' is a true picture, and the char-
acters are real. I like old man Gansett, and my
father thought that the character was drawn from
him. I don't know but it was."
Concerning "A Kentucky Colonel," he writes:
" 'The Colonel,' thus far, is my most successful
book, and I like it. Not on account of its suc-
cess, but because it is close to tne soil. To write
it was a delight."
He declares of the "The Colossus": "The work
in 'The Colossus' is careful, and there are true
pictures in it."
Of "The Tennessee Judge," he gives this opin-
ion: "The critics say that the 'Judge' is my
most finished work. They declare that it is more
nearly a unity. This may be, but unity may be
He writes of "The Wives of the Prophet" in
this way:- "'The Wives of the Prophet' is a
study. Some people like it; others do not. And
concerning it I am indifferent."
"Down on the Suwanee River" is thus disposed
of by Mr. Read: "This is a muse and a dream
along the Suwanee River. It is a desperate and
feverish dream, but in it there are restful places."
He says of "The Jucklins": "I don't know but
I like this better than any of my books. I know
136 TEN W I SE MEN
the Jucklins. I see them now, and they appeal
"Miss Madam" is the title of a book of many-
pretty little sketches, and Mr. Read says of them:
"These short stories are mere glimpses of my
Concerning "My Young Master" he has written
this to me: "The story of 'My Young Master'
is still so new in my mind that I scarcely know
what to • say of it I have an impression, how-
ever, that it contains much truth, and I know
that it was written with great care."
Since the date mentioned, Laird & Lee have
brought out, of Mr. Read's books: "Tear in the
Cup and Other Stories," "Turk," "Old Ebenezer,"
"The Carpet-Bagger," "The Starbucks," "The
Hark-riders," "The Son of the Sword-maker," and
"By the Eternal." Thompson & Thomas have pub-
lished "An American in New York," Rand & Mc-
Nally, "In the Alamo," "Judge Elbridge," "A
Yankee from the West," "An Arkansas Planter,"
"Up Terrapin River," "The Waters of Caney
Fork," and "Confessions of Marguerite," Way
& Williams, "Bolanyo," and there are scat-
tering works of Read from other publishers;
about thirty novels, and every one of them
have been successful, many of them phenomenally
so, and some of them as plays, particularly "The
Starbucks," and "The Hark-riders," dramatized
by Mr. Read himself.
Among the thousands of terse and forcible
epigrams evolved by the characters in these books
the following are a few:
"The devil titters when men argue."
"It is more respectable in the eye of the world
to be a thief than a pauper."
"The love that we learn to bestow is the easi-
est love to take away."
"Compliments are almost worthless when they
reach none but the nattered ear."
"The worry of a strong man is a sign of dan-
AN D S M E M RE 137
'Scuse me, marster, I didn't mean no harm
I'se blind, you see."
138 TEN WI SE MEN
"There is more of conviction in silent opposites
than in noisy arguments."
"Some men might argue that it is difficult if
not impossible for a failure to become a success,
but all astonishing success have come out of pre-
"A confession of ignorance is a step toward
"To enjoy a principle we must share it with a
"A marriage tie cannot hold an unwilling mind."
"How weak it is to sin and how strong to for-
"You must not be a cynic — it is an acknowledge-
ment of failure."
"The children of genius are cheapened by fre-
"If you make an equal of a man who is not
your equal he is sure, sooner or later, to insult
"How many strange things love will make a
"A law book without poetry behind it is a
heap of helpless dust."
"To be wholly respectable a man must give up
many an enjoyment."
"There are always two hopes walking with a
doubt, one on each side, but a certainty walks
"When a man has once been a 'servant' of the
people he is never satisfied to fall back among
the powerless 'masters.' "
"Any tie of life that holds us to some one, al-
though at times its straining may fall a little
short of agony, is better far than slipshod free-
dom from responsibility."
"Humor is the cream that rises to the surface
of 'the milk of human kindness.' "
"He who has suffered in childhood and who
in after life has walked hand in hand with dis-
appointment, and is then not sensitive, is a
AND SOME MORE 139
"We are never tired of a man so long as we
can laugh at him."
"To desire commendation is of itself a merit."
"The victim of a king's displeasure is not in-
"We sometimes wound a life-long friend with
a word that would have no effect upon a mere ac-
"Let us say that sometimes the devil giveth
and the Lord taketh away."
For the five or six years last past Opie Read
has traveled thousands upon thousands of miles
in this republic under the auspices of lecture
bureaus and Chautauqua managements, giving
readings from his short stories, and lectures that
exploit his deep, quaint, wise and humorous phil-
osophies. In that work he has become an enter-
tainer of such charming quality that there could
not be time enough for him to fill all the engage-
ments that are offered him, unless he might ac-
quire the capacity for ubiquity.
For a few seasons I accompanied Mr. Read on
these tours and participated in the work of en-
On such a trip one sees things — even an ab-
stemious man — more than he would if he were
"traveling in trade," for then the demands of his
business confine him. We were filling lyceum en-
gagements in cities and towns along the Louis-
ville and Nashville Railroad in Kentucky, Tennes-
see and Alabama. In some of those places Opie
Read had passed months, and sometimes years,
of his boyhood and early manhood, and many of
the older citizens continue to call him by his
Chirstian name, often abbreviating that.
In one town an old-time friend of Read, dis-
cussing the latter's books, unwittingly and in his
own peculiar style, repeated the statement that
"truth is stranger than fiction."
This is how he did it:
"I've be'n readin' some of yo' books, suh, 'cause
they treat— nothin' irrelative intended, suh," he in-
terpolated with a smile, — "of things that we know
140 TEN W I SE MEN
about. An' suh, I have discovered that what is,
and what was, and what is going to be, and all
the ev'ry day things around us have got mo'
po'try, romance and heart-int'rust in them, suh,
than the impossible doin's of Scott's i'ernclad
knights, Cooper's Injun killers or Marryat's pirate
eaters. But you have done me mawtal injury,
suh. You have opened my eyes to the beauty of
things all aroun' me, suh, an' larnt me, when it's
too late, suh.
"But I don't hold it agin you, suh."
A distinguished writer of Kentucky once said
of another distinguished writer of the same state,
•'It came to be questioned which was the most
dangerous, his pistol or his pen; for he was a
dead shot as well as a dreadful satirist."
And yet this man once refused to fight a duel
for the sake of perpetrating a joke. He replied
to his challenger that it took only one fool to send
a challenge, while it took two to fight, and he
desired to escape the category.
Opie Read has a heart as tender as a gentle
woman's, and his pockets are kept bare of small
change because he is continually giving it away
to beggars. Notwithstanding this disposition in
Opie Read, he delights in a practical joke even
in the performance of a charity, or a constitu-
tional kindness. To illustrate: One day a fellow
such as one often comes in contact with in city
streets, followed Read importuning him for a
coin. The man kept step with Read along the
sidewalk, and told his "tale of woe," winding up
by saying, "Can't you help me along?"
"You seem to be getting along quite as fast as
I," Read replied; and the man stopped. Read
turned and looked at him with a smile, then gave
him all the money he had about him, except
enough to pay his own car-fare home.
In the back-yard at Opie Read's home is a peach
tree that should be cut down and cast into the
fire, if scriptural injunction were followed. It
has never borne fruit, good or bad.
AND SOM E MORE 141
Read's family had been out in the country sev-
eral weeks in the summer but returned in the
fall. They got home at night and early next
morning Opie, who is a very "soon" riser, got
out to a neighboring fruit stand and bought a
big basket of very fine peaches. These he in-
dustriously stuck all over the branches of that
tree, and then went in and called the family to
show them that the tree had finally decided to
do the proper thing. Then he went out and
picked the peaches himself. The family thought
better of that old tree and expected great things
of it the next season. But Read was not at home
when it should have made its luscious and prolific
yield, hence it has only been a summer shade
tree, since. However, for one season Mr. Read's
young folks got the peaches and he had lots of
fun. Moreover, the peaches were just as good —
perhaps better — than if the tree had borne them.
At any rate- all spoke of how much better it was to
have peaches picked from the tree than to have
old, second-hand fruit store stock.
Once, a few years ago, I was a visitor at the
home of Mrs. S. D. Butler, one of Opie Read's sis-
ters, and she told me of many incidents of her
She said, among other things, that farm work
was very distasteful to Opie. His aesthetic na-
ture positively loathed that sort of contact with
the soil. When he was sent into a field to plow
corn he seldom came out at the other end of the
row, but could generally be found, some hours
after he started in, sitting in the shade of a stump
reading a book, while the horse was eating down
the young and tender blades of the corn within
the radius of his tether.
On one occasion Opie's father was having a big
gate and the connecting fence moved to another
line, and had told Opie to dig holes for the gate
posts, at spots indicated by him.
"What's the need of that?" Opie asked. "Why
not move up these holes that are already dug?"
142 TEN WI S E M EN
The old gentleman did not take to Opie's humor-
ous trend, hut looking at the boy strangely, for a
moment, he said at last:
"Now you go to the house, and don't come about
here any more." Then turning to Opie's older
brother, he said:
"I hope I may die if I don't believe that boy
ain't right bright in his mind."
One winter night Opie's mother missed him
from the house. A heavy sleet was falling and
Opie had gone into the woods, near by, to listen
to the music of the sleet among the trees. His
father went with a lantern in search of him and
found the honest boy sitting on a log.
"What are you doing here?" the father asked.
"Listening to the music of the sleet."
"Hadn't you better come into the house?"
"Yes, if you think so."
Father Read happened to mention the incident
to a neighbor, and it became rumored that the
boy was deranged. Some folks would shy around
him when they met him "in the big road." How-
ever, it became settled that while he was not
"right bright in his mind," he was "a harmless
Altogether, Opie Read is a strong character,
as intense as any that have been written of. He
is true, honest, generous, natural, brilliant,
learned. He is a figure in American literature at
which the world is looking, and he will receive
the reward of earnest, intelligent and worthy
work. His romances are strong and pure, and
he writes of character, custom and peculiarities
among the scenes he depicts, just nrecisely as
they are. When his characters talk, they talk
naturally; and when the author speaks, his dic-
tion is pure and rich, yet plain and unassuming.
The man utterly desmses -pedantry, and is as
easy in his work as he is in telling a brilliant
story to a party of admiring listeners; and yet
he loiters along paths where flowers bloom,
among the woods where birds are singing, into
AND SOME MORE 143
places where passion surges, and amid the se-
cluded nooks where love is sweetest and most
blissful. He writes poetry in prose as naturally
as white clouds float beneath the blue of summer
skies. Yet, with all his greatness, Opie Read
seems to comprehend it less than any one who
knows him, and in his work and daily life he is
an exemplification of the kinship between humor
He leads you from the city's glare and blare,
Its conflict and its killing wear and tear,
Where shredded nerves are quivering, and woe —
The minor strain — pervading deep and low,
The crashing music of it all, appeals
To Tenderness, that weeps with what she feels,
But sheds her tears in hopelessness, while Sin
Rides high and blatant, mid the ceaseless din.
With wondrous art, and mighty heart and soul
And trenchant pen, he leads to where we stroll
Away from rush, and roar, and grasping greed;
Prom truckling cant, deceit and hollow creed,
To fields and woods where sweetest flowers grow;
By streams and hills, where southern breezes blow,
And this is Opie Read.
With him we hear the song of cooing dove,
That calls its mate and tells its gentle love.
The rain-drops splash the rose's open breast;
In white and gold the orange trees are drest;
The bay of hounds comes down the wooded glen;
At night the gray fox barks beside his den;
In ardent summer-time a seeming snow,
Lies deep, in broad, white cotton-fields, that glow
Beneath the sun's fierce rays, and mellow song
Rings through the woods, in echoes sweet and
Soft breezes sway the red-topped iron-weed,
In pastures clean, where high-bred cattle feed;
His man, his maid, his hero and his clown,
Are true to life, as he has writ them down,
For this is Opie Read.
ROBERT LOVE TAYLOR.
ROBERT LOVE TAYLOR,
Governor and Senator.
It seems quite natural that Robert L. Taylor
of Tennessee should have been born at Happy
Valley, which is in Carter county of the "Old Vol-
If "Bob" Taylor has not been one of the hap-
piest mortals that ever "sawed a fiddle," appear-
ances have been as deceptive as a mirage and the
equations have not equated. His sadness, when
he has had any, has been over the misfortunes
or sufferings of others; solicitude for those he
loves, and that is nearly the entire race, barring
only those who are constitutional^ and incor-
rigibly dishonorable and dishonest. For even
those he has ever had a heart full of pity.
Despite the fact that "Bob" Taylor has been
perrenially clothed with the honors that his state
could give him, almost as rapidly as he grew up to
fit them, he has been the foremost humorist of his
region and one of the merriest in history. Withal,
he has ever been serious about serious things and
possessed of a soul of deep feeling.
Reared amid the mountains of his native state,
his nature has partaken of their loftiness and
It is ever thus. Where Nature is rugged and pic-
turesque, so are the people; where the climate is
kind and hospitable, so are the people; where there
is breadth, bravery, vigor and freedom in the hills,
the streams, the forests and the winds, there,
breadth, bravery, vigor and love of freedom are
typical of the people. Give these men culture and
they become the greatest of men in all the walks
of life, other things being anywhere near equal.
146 TEN WI SE MEN
Robert Taylor, from childhood to manhood;
from the barefoot boy with a "stone-bruise" to the
senator with a bald head and a toga; from the
cabin to the capitol, has been fair and square,
all the time, and filled with honor and eloquence,
patriotism and poetry, mirth and music, manliness
and charity. He has been representative in Con-
gress, governor of the state, whenever he wished
to be, — having been three times elected to that
office, once when his brother, Alfred A., was the
candidate against him. Now he has been chosen
by popular vote, ratified by the legislature of
Tennessee, to be a senator of the United States,
to take his seat on the 4th of March of this year.
Senator Taylor is particularly gifted with the
warm and flowery eloquence peculiar to Southern
orators, but wit and jollity so pervade his nature
that often in making a speech he will abruptly
cut a well-rounded sentence with a flash of humor
that explodes his audience.
Once, for instance, in a speech where he hap-
pened to mention "Mason and Dixon's line" — that
now, thanks to the patriotism, gallantry and en-
durance of the Spanish war soldiers, from North,
South, East and West, has been obliterated — Gov-
ernor Taylor said:
"There it is, a great crimson scar of politics
across the face of the grandest country that God
ever made. There it is, and there it will remain,
the dividing line between — cold bread and hot
In a casual eulogy of his own state that he loves
so much, speaking of her, allegorically, as a beau-
tiful woman, he said:
"There she rests, upon her verdant couch. At
the west her dimpled feet bathed in the waters
of the mighty Mississippi; at the east her glorious
head pillowed upon the mountains — and there we
have first-class mountains. Why, some of those
mountains are so high that a tall man can stand
on the tip top of a lofty peak and tickle the feet
of the angels."
AND SOME MORE 147
It was in the 1870's, after being educated at
Pennington, New Jersey, that Mr. Taylor began
the practice of law in a small town of Tennessee.
It is said that his first case was the defense of a
negro who was accused of some petty crime.
"I was young and mighty self-important," he
said, "and I conducted that case with what I con-
sidered to be masterful and consummate ability.
I made a speech that I thought would have cleared
a much guiltier man, then left the matter with
+v e court and went home to dinner. We had din-
ger there at the sensible hour of 12 o'clock, noon.
After dinner, when I was on my way back to the
courthouse, I met a yaller feller whom I had seen
loafing about the courtroom, and I asked him if
the jury had come in. He replied:
"Ya-as, suh, de jury's done come in."
"What did the jury do?" I asked. His reply
gave me to understand the worst.
"Marse Bob," he said, "dat jury's done gone
"I knew that when a jury went 'dimmercratic,'
in a negro case, in that part of Tennessee, that the
lawyer for the defense had as well take up an-
other piece of business."
In 1878, the same year that he was admitted to
practice law, Mr. Taylor was married to Miss
Sarah L. Baird of Asheville, North Carolina. It
is told of him that while he was courting the
young lady she exacted of him a promise that he
would never drink intoxicants, and this does not
imply that he had ever misused liquor. Indeed,
he has always been a reasonably abstemious man.
The lady's request was simply a solicitous pre-
caution, natural enough in that day and region.
Some months after the two were married, Mr.
Taylor went home rather late one night and as he
entered the apartments where his wife was, the
odor of "Old Robertson County" went in with him.
Mrs. Taylor asked what time it was, and the
coming governor replied that it was just 12. In-
148 TEN WI SE MEN
stantly and in an unnecessarily hilarious manner,
a clock in another room struck "three."
The young wife began to cry and the young
husband tried to comfort her.
"What's the matter, honey?" he asked. "Why
do you cry?"
"After many endearments the little woman at
last was brought to say, between sobs. "Oh! I've
caught you in a story."
Then with artful ingenuity and well-feigned
weeping, the husband turned away and bent his
head over a chair in awful sobs.
It was now the tender-hearted young wife's
turn to do some comforting.
"Why, what is the matter, sweetheart? What
are you crying about, dear?" she sweetly begged.
The young scamp, amid sobs that were nearly
choked with suppressed laughter, blubbered out:
"I'm broken-hearted! Oh, I'm broken-hearted.
Just to think that my own little wife believes a
blamed old two-dollar and a half clock before she
During his several gubernatorial terms Gover-
nor Taylor pardoned such a large number of con-
victs from the penitentiary that the fact was
taken by those who opposed him politically as
ammunition in election battles against him. But
it was always shown that the records in each case
had been carefully examined by the governor him-
self, and that the pardons were just and really
conducive of public good.
It is told that once when an acquaintance ac-
cidentally jostled against Governor Taylor in the
street, he lifted his hat with becoming politeness
and said, "Please pardon me, Governor," the kindly
executive, happening to be in a state of abstrac-
tion, looked at his friend somewhat absently for
a moment and then replied, "All right, Jim. But
what are you in for?"
However, it must be admitted, that it was often
a consolation to Governor Taylor, in the exercise
AND SOME MORE 149
of the pardoning power, that "the quality of mercy
is not strained."
The two following instances of his use of the
prerogative mentioned are eminently character-
istic of the man. One involves pathos and the
other humor. Of the first Governor Taylor says:
"One bright morning, just before Christmas
day, an official stood in the executive chamber, in
my presence as governor of Tennessee, and said
'Governor, I have been implored by a poor, miser-
able wretch in the penintentiary to bring you this
rude fiddle. It was made by his own hand with
a penknife during the hours allotted to him for
rest. It is absolutely valueless, it is true, but it
is his petition to you for mercy. He begged me to
say that he has neither attorneys nor influential
friends to plead for him; that he is poor, and all
he asks is that when the governor shall sit at his
own happy fireside on Christmas eve, with his
own happy children around him, he will play one
tune on this rough fiddle and think of a cabin
far away in the mountains whose hearthstone is
cold and desolate and surrounded by a family of
poor little ragged and wretched children, crying
for bread and waiting and listening for the foot-
steps of their father.'
"Who would not have been touched by such an
appeal? The record was examined: Christmas
eve came; the governor sat that night at his own
happy fireside, surrounded by his own happy
children; and he played one tune to them on that
rough fiddle. The hearthstone of the cabin in the
mountains was bright and warm; a pardoned
prisoner sat with his baby on his knee, surround-
ed by his rejoicing children and in the presence
of his happy wife, and although there was naught
but poverty around him, his heart sang: 'Be it
ever so humble, there's no place like home,' and
then he reached up and snatched his fiddle down
from the wall and played: 'Jordan is a hard road
to travel.' "
During the last year of Governor Taylor's in-
cumbency of the gubernatorial chair of Tennes-
TEN WISE MEN
'"Marse Bob, we'se out er meet ergin.
AND SOME MORE 151
see an ancient black mammy came in one day to
beg the governor to pardon her old husband.
"Marse Bob," she said, "I wish you'd pardon
dat ole nigger Jim outen de pen. Dey's got him
down dar en he ain' no good nowhar, en we needs
him at home."
"Can't do it, Aunt Hannah," the governor said.
"The newspapers are roasting me to a turn, now,
for pardoning so many convicts, and — "
"Laws bress yo' life, Marse Bob," the old woman
pleadingly interposed, "I wish you would, Marse
Bob. I'se toted you in my arms when you wuzzen
no bigger dan a minnit — deys jes' got dat ole nig-
ger in dar en he ain' no good for nuffin, an' — -"
"What's he in for, Aunt Hannah?" the governor
"Jis fur one po' little ole ham, Marse Bob. We
wuz outen meat, an' Jim he jes went down to Mr.
Smif's smokehouse, he did, an' tuck one po'
little ole ham, an' dey tuck him up fur
dat an' put 'im down dar in de pen, an' he
ain' no good fur nuffin nowhar. We needs him
at home, Marse Bob, an' I wish — "
"If he is so onery and useless, Aunt Hannah,
what do you want him out for?"
"W'y, laws bress yo' life, Marse Bob, we'se out
er meat ergin!"
The governor pardoned Jim.
Frequently the identity of Ex-Governor Taylor
of Tennessee is confused, by strangers to both,
with that of Ex-Governor Taylor of Kentucky, who
was so unfortunate as to have been involved in
the circumstances associated with the assassina-
tion of Governor Goebel. Illustration of this comes
in the following incident that lately occurred in
Colonel Blank of Chicago, who is a Southerner
by birth and breeding, has a distinct and undy-
ing admiration for Ex-Governor "Bob" Taylor of
Tennessee, who is now in the act of taking his
seat as senator from his state in place of the pres-
ent wearer of the toga, Senator Carmack. Colo-
152 TEN WISE MEN
nel Blank, who prides himself upon his family,
has no family, but is an unmarried man and has
apartments in the home of a friend on Jackson
boulevard, and in one of his rooms he has a life-
size bust portrait of Tennessee's favorite son.
The gentleman who owns the home where
Colonel Blank lives is much away from the city at-
tending to his commercial interests, and Colonel
Blank has several times observed that when his
landlord and friend has returned from one of his
tours he looks askant at the portrait of Taylor.
One day, not long ago, Blank said to him: "Have
you any fault in your mind against that picture?"
"It is a very fine painting, I understand," said
the man of the house, "and by a great artist, I am
told. But to be candid with you, Colonel, I do
somewhat object to having it hung upon the walls
of my house the portrait of a man who is accused
of having been in the conspiracy to assassinate
the governor of Kentucky, a state that I very
much admire and whose people are my sort of
This gave the Colonel his opportunity, and he
launched forth in a torrent of eloquence in eulogy
of Taylor of Tennessee, altogether another man
from Taylor of Kentucky, who, justly or unjustly,
has been made a fugitive from the state of which
he was governor and for whom the mayor of
Indianapolis is said to have refused an offer of
$25,000 if he would suffer the refugee to be kid-
The man of the house was much relieved by
Colonel Blank's explanation, and the face of genial
"Bob" Taylor serenely continues to look down up-
on the household, and the kindly countenance has
a new and different interest to all except the col-
onel, whose admiration has always been too great
Aside from his good works as a patriot in pow-
er, as a charitable citizen, as a companionable
gentleman, as a friend and neighbor, "Bob" Tay-
lor, through his lectures on "The Fiddle and the
AtiD SOME MORE 153
Bow," "The Paradise of Fools," "Visions and
Dreams," etc., has carried delight to thousands
of souls, in hundreds of great audiences, all over
this republic, and parts of New Jersey. Mr. De-
Long Rice, who compiled the lectures and print-
ted them in a book, has said with exact truth:
"In the dialect of his characters, the melody of
his songs and originality of his quaint conceptions,
Governor Taylor's lectures are temples of thought
lighted with windows of fun."
In his lectures Governor Taylor rambles about
amid charming philosophies of life, told in remi-
niscent anecdote and pointed phraseology. His
stories always point a moral and he is ever elo-
quent in humor and pathos, wisdom and senti-
In "Visions and Dreams" he tells much of the
motive of his political career and in the quaintest
way. He says:
"There under the shade of the sycamores, on my
father's old farm, I used to dream of the years to
come. I looked through a vista blooming with
pleasures, fruiting with achievements, and beau-
tiful as the cloud-isles of the sunset. The siren,
ambition, sat beside me and fired my young heart
with her prophetic song. She dazzled me, and
charmed me, and soothed me, into sweet fantastic
reveries. She touched me and bade me look into
the wondrous future. The bow of promise
spanned it. Hope was enthroned there and smiled
like an angel of light. Under that shining arch
lay the goal of my fondest aspirations. Visions
of wealth, and of laurels, and of applauding thous-
ands, crowded the horizon of my dream. I saw
the capitol of the republic, that white-columned
pantheon of liberty, lifting its magnificent pile
from the midst of the palaces, and parks, the stat-
ues, and monuments, of the most beautiful city
in the world. Infatuated with this vision of earth-
ly glory, I bade adieu to home and its dreams,
seized the standard of a great political party, and
rushed into the turmoil and tumult of the heated
154 TEN WISE MEN
campaign. Unable to bear the armor of a Saul,
I went forth to do battle wth a fiddle, a pair of
saddlebags, a plug horse, and the eternal truth.
There was the din of conflict by day on the hust-
ings; there was the sound of revelry by night in
the cabins. The midnight stars twinkled to the
music of the merry fiddle, and the hills resound-
ed with the clatter of dwindling shoe soles, as the
mountain lads and lassies danced the hours away
in the good old time Virginia reel. I rode among
the mountain fastnesses like the "Knight of the
woeful figure," mounted on my prancing "Rozen-
ante," everywhere charging the windmill of the
opposing party, and wherever I drew rein the
mountaineers swarmed from far and near to wit-
ness the bloodless battle of the contending candi-
dates in the arena of joint discussion. My learned
competitor, bearing the shield of "protection to
American labor," and armed to the teeth with
mighty argument, hurled himself upon me with
the fury of a lion. His blows descended like
thunder-bolts, and the welkin rang with cheers
when his lance went shivering to the center. His
logic was appalling, his imagery was sublime. His
tropes and similes flashed like the drawn blades
of charging cavalry, and with a flourish of trum-
pets, his grand effort culminated in a splendid trib-
ute to the republic, crowned with Goldsmith's
" 'As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm;
Though 'round its breast the rolling clouds are
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.'
"I received the charge of the enemy 'with poised
lance, and visor down.' I deluged the tall cliff
under a flood of fountain eloquence, which
poured from my patriotic lips like molasses
pouring from the bung-hole of the uni-
verse. I mounted the American eagle and soared
among the stars. I scraped the skies and cut the
black illimitable far out beyond the orbit of
AN D SOME MORE 155
Uranus, and I reached the climax of my trium-
phant flight with a hyperbole that eclipsed Gold-
smith's metaphor, unthroned the foe, and left him
stunned upon the field. Thus I soared:
" 'I stood upon the sea shore, and with a frail
reed in my hand, I wrote in the sand, "My coun-
try, I love thee;" a mad wave came rushing by
' and wiped out the fair impression. Cruel wave,
treacherous sand, frail reed; I said, "I hate ye,
I'll trust ye no more, but with a giant's arm, I'll
reach to the coast of Norway, and pluck its tallest
pine, and dip it in the crater of Vesuvius, and
write upon the burnished heavens, "My country,.
I love thee!" And I'd like to see any durned
wave rub that out ! ! ! '
"Between the long intervals of argument my
speech grinned with anecdotes like a basketful of
'possum heads. The fiddle played its part, the
people did the rest, and I carved upon the tomb-
stone of the demolished knight these tender
" 'Tread softly round this sacred heap,
It guards ambition's restless sleep;
Whose greed for place ne'er did forsake bim,
Don't mention office, or you'll wake him.'
"I reached the goal of my visions and dreams
under that colossal dome whose splendors are
shadowed in the broad river that flows by the
shrine of Mt. Vernon. I sat amid the confusion
and uproar of the parliamentary struggles of the
lower branch of the Congress of the United States.
'Sunset' Cox, wth his beams of wit and humor,
convulsed the house and shook the galleries.
Alexander Stephens, one of the last tottering
monuments of the glory of the Old South, still
lingered on the floor, where, in by-gone years, the
battles of his vigorous manhood were fought. I
saw in the senate an assemblage of the grandest
men since the days of Webster and Clay. Conk-
ling, the intellectual Titan, the Apollo of manly
form and grace, thundered there. The 'Plumed
Knight,' that grand incarnation of mind and mag-
TEN WISE MEN
Tickling the feet of the angels.
AND SOME MORE 157
netism, was at the zenith of his glory. Edmunds,
and Zack Chandler, and the brilliant and learned
jurist, Mat Carpenter, were there. Thurman, the
'noblest Roman of them all,' was there with his
famous bandana handkerchief. The immortal
Ben Hill, the idol of the South, and Lamar, the
gifted orator and highest type of Southern chiv-
alry, were there. Garland, and Morgan, and Har-
ris, and Coke, were there; and Beck, with his
sledge-hammer and intellect It was an arena of
opposing gladiators more magnificent and majestic
than was ever witnessed in the palmiest days of
the Roman Empire. There were giants iii the
Senate in those days, and when they clashed
shields and measured swords in debate, the cap-
itol trembled and the nation thrilled in every
"But how like the ocean's ebb and flow are the
restless tides of politics! These scenes of grand-
eur and glory soon dissolved from my view like
a dream. I 'saved my country' for only two short
years. My competitor proved a lively corpse. He
burst forth from the tomb Ike a locust from its
shell, and came buzzing to the national capitol
with 'war on his wings.' I went buzzing back to
the mountains to dream as:ain under the syca-
mores; and there a new ambition was kindled in
my soul. A new vision opened before me. I saw
another capitol rise on the banks of the Cumber-
land, overshadowing the tomb of Polk and close
by the Hermitage where reposes the sacred dust
of Andrew Jackson. And I thought if I could
only reach the exalted position of governor of the
old 'Volunteer State' I would then have gained
the sum of life's honors and happiness. But lo!
another son of my father and mother was dream-
ing there under the same old sycamore. We had
dreamed together in the same trundle-bed and
often kicked. each other out. Together we had seen
visions of pumpkin pie and pulled hair for the
biggest slice. Together we had smoked the first
cigar and together learned to play the fiddle. But
158 TEN WISE MEN
now the dreams of our manhood clashed. Re-
lentless fate had decreed that 'York' must con-
tend with 'Lancaster' in the 'War of the Roses.'
And with flushed cheeks and throbbing hearts we
eagerly entered the field; his shield bearing the
red rose, mine the white. It was a contest of
principles, free from the wormwood and gall of
personalities, and when the multitude of partisans
gathered at the hustings a white rose on every
Democratic bosom, a red rose on every Repub-
lican breast, in the midst of a wilderness of
flowers, there was many a tilt and many a loud
huzzah. But when the clouds of war had cleared
away, I looked upon the drooping red rose on the
bosom of the vanquished knight, and thought of
the first speech my mother ever taught me:
'Man's a vapor, full of woes,
Cuts a caper — down he goes!'
"The white rose triumphed. But the shadow is
fairer than the substance. The pathway of ambi-
tion is marked at every mile with the grave of
some sweet pleasure slain by the hand of sacrifice.
It bristles with thorns planted by the fingers of
envy and hate, and as we climb the rugged
heights, behind us lie our bloody foot-prints,
before us tower still greater heights, scarred
by tempests and wrapped in eternal snow.
Like the edelwiess of the Alps, ambition's
pleasures bloom in the chill air of per-
petual frost, and he who reaches the summit will
look down with longing eyes on the humbler plane
of life below and wish his feet had never wan-
dered from its warmer sunshine and sweeter flow-
Concerning the "old field school" Taylor says:
"The curriculum was the same everywhere — one
Webster's blue-backed, elementary spelling book,
one thumb-paper, one stone-bruise, one sore toe,
Peter Parley's Travels."
Speaking of the grim old teacher, Taylor tells
that once, when the school commissioners were
making an official visit, he heard them question
AND SOME MORE 159
the ancient pedagogue as to his system for teach-
ing geography. They desired to learn whether
he taught that the world was round or flat. The
teacher replied with somewhat haughty dignity:
"That depends upon whar I'm teachin'. Ef my
patrons desire me to teach the round system, I
teach it; if they desire me to teach the flat sys-
tem, I teach that."
Senator Taylor is passionately fond of music,
and of his favorite instrument he has said:
"The violin is the poet laureate of music; violin
of the virtuoso and master, fiddle of the untutored
in the ideal art. It is the aristocrat of the palace
and the hall; it is the democrat of the unpre-
tentious home and the humble cabin. As violin
it weaves its garlands of roses and carmelias; as
fiddle it scatters its modest violets. It is ad-
mired by the cultured for its magnificent powers
and wonderful creations; it is loved by the mil-
lions for its simple melodies."
The following verses by this writer were in-
scribed some years ago to Governor Taylor, and
in a simple way they tell their own story:
THE GOVERNOR'S VIOLIN.
'Mid the silken perfumed elegance
Within a stately house,
I've heard its rich tones ringing
Through the wilderings of Strauss,
And I've heard the sigh of gentle ones
Who listened while it bore
To charmed hearts the sweetness
Of the touching Trovatore.
I've heard it in the evening,
Within a quiet home,
Sing "Swanee River" till the bees
Came humming 'round the comb;
'Mid the phases of the wassail,
And the joys of festal cheer,
I've heard it change from grave to gay,
From lively to severe.
160 TEN WI S E MEN
In tender tones of pleading,
In sighs of spent delight,
In greetings to the morning,
And in good-byes to the night;
In storms upon the ocean,
And in the songs of birds,
I've heard its voice, like living thing,
In sweetest human words.
I've heard it give, stentorian,
Command in battle's blare,
And heard it whisper soft and low,
Like angels in the air.
'Mong brawny men, in mining camps,
I've seen it hush a brawl,
Till clenched hands are open palms.
That in each other fall.
I've seen it gather little ones
About the player's knee,
As did the babes of olden time
'Round Him of Galilee
And to it oft I've listened
Till all the world was kin,
While, lovingly, its master played
The Governor's Violin.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN KING
The Michigan Baed.
Where the forest growth was great and its foli-
age luxuriant; where the streams were deep and
sleepy or rugged and tumbling; where were ex-
alted bluffs that defied the heaviest storms of a
mighty inland sea; where summer dwelt proudly
and winter reigned with mailed hand; where the
breezes came softly and the wind harp sang its
tenderest melodies and where its strings were
swept by the wildest wails of the maddest night;
where all nature was kindliest and fiercest, be-
times, Ben King was born just half a century ago,
on the bluffs, in the woods, near the town and in
King's father was the owner of a general store
that was only big enough to be quite important
in the vilage, and Ben had a brother.
For a time, in his youth, it was thought by
those about him that Ben was going to amount to
something, for he took to the store and could sell
things, and add up columns of figures, and answer
nearly all the calls of a counter-boy.
But one day when Ben was seventeen or so, he
fell ill. He had, with all the other phases of his
malady, a brain fever, and when he came out of
his sick room a cadaverous convalescent, he had
lost all knowledge of "figgers" and had no dis-
position, ever afterward, to "stand in the store."
But his head was turned to music and he took to
"Good-bye Ben King!" was what they said. Now
he could never amount to anything.
But there was consolation in the brother. He
was a "born merchant," and he was going to make
164 TEN WI SE M EN
Poor fellow! he filled well his place, so long as
he lived. He was all that was expected of him.
But he died in a few years and the hope of the
family was gone. His name was and
is known to the readers of Ben King's biographies
because he was Ben's brother.
"Where the woods and streams and the flowers
and the foliage are, and where the storms and
the calms come and go, and where all else is that
makes Nature glorious to her lover, — those are
good places to gather the silken skeins of poetry,
but one must go to the city to sell the woven
Ben King went to the great city, but he had to
keep in touch with St. Joe, for he had naturally
got a sweetheart there — Aseneth Belle Latham —
and he had made her his wife. Moreover, he had
accumulated the further responsibility of two
baby boys — Bennett Latham King and Spencer P.
King. Thus he lived much in the city and a little
over yonder across the lake. But that is farther
than one can see. Indeed there is quite a time,
while you are crossing, that you cannot see land
in any direction.
Poetry is one of the most unmarketable articles
in all the booths of Vanity Fair, and Ben King
could not sell enough poetry to see his way home,
very often. However, he took to selling pianos
on commission. Now and then he sold one; now
and then he sold a poem; now and then he did a
"stunt" in a "paid" entertainment.
Things grew better, now and then, and King
His music on the piano was not "high art." It
was the breeze and the shower, the bud and the
bloom-burst of genius.
His poetry was not the exalted and imposing
grandeur of epic strength, that panoramaed in
classic procession. It was the spray of the foun-
tain, the babble of the brook, the smile of nature,
the roaring laugh of homely life, the quip of good-
fellowship, the badinage of the breezy, and it
AND SOM E MORE 16 5
rocked in its rhythm with the easy gait of a
His "stunts" — he simply sat at the piano and
did them, and he got up and did them. He con-
tinually sprung surprises, and he grew to be the
most unique entertainer that ever bowed, with
charming awkwardness, to an audience.
Then he died!
Just as the trail that he had blazed toward
fame and fortune was reaching the wide and
easy alameda, he died.
Oh! what a pity that was. King would have
been such a prince, in great success. He would
have been such a gratification to the hundreds who
loved him and the thousands who would have
loved him, and the big crowds that admired him.
But there is a book of his verse that is grow-
ing in vogue, and will continue to grow. In com-
pound increase it will go into the hands and
hearts of the mighty multitude "that knows a
good thing when it sees it," and of a verity Ben
King's verse is a good thing.
But the way he did things, right before your
face, to make you laugh in \he most gurgling and
satisfactory way — for now and then there was a
touch of something deeply tender to leaven your
mirth! Oh! the way he did that, can never be
known to others than those who were there.
That has gone and the memory of it will go with
Ben King's generation.
King was traveling with Opie Read in the
South. The two were giving readings from their
own literary work and King was also doing his
piano divertisements, under the direction of a
lyceum bureau. At Bowling Green, Kentucky, the
two had made the best part of the townspeople
particularly happy on the evening of April the
16th, 1894. That people had heard "Old Kentucky
Home" sung and played in every conceivable way,
from the plunking banjo accompaniment with
the minor notes of a. home negro, to the trained
166 TEN WI 8 E MEN
and perfect harmonies of a grand orchestra with
the voice of a prima donna. But Ben King played
the song that night, on the piano, with the inter-
pretation of his own lawless genius, and the
house arose, en masse, waved dainty handker-
chiefs and portmanteau shaped umbrellas,
"tossed high their ready caps" — and slouch hats
and silk tiles — "in air," shouted, cheered, and
"made the rafters ring," in wild and continued
applause. King played the piece over, and over
It was the first outburst that King had ever
seen of real promise of a limitless success.
The two were lionized, almost canonized, in a
reception after the entertainment. They were to
leave early the next morning for the next "stand."
When the time came for the twain to prepare
for departure it was found that King had gone
beyond the call, except that of the archangel.
In a little sketch by Read at the beginning of
Ben King's book of verse, he has hinted of that
morning in Kentucky. Read was stunned by the
event and he tenderly approaches it in this way:
"How odd a boy he was — no one understood
him. On the edge of the marsh he would sit
during hours at a time, under the spell of the
weird music amid the rushes. As he grew up,
lacking the instincts that make men successful in
business, he was pronounced a failure — not by
those who had warmed themselves in the glow
of his poetic nature, but by the man who believed
that to turn over a dime and thereby to make a
dollar of it was the most gracious faculty that
could be bestowed upon a member of the human
family. But when Ben King died, St. Joseph
became more widely known in one day than
hundreds of excursions and a thousand orchards
had served to advertise it in the past. On that
April morning, people living in the far East and
the far West asked the question: 'Where is St.
AND SOME MORE 167
"Ben King was not only a man of music; lie was
a poet, a gentle satirist, and a humorist of the
highest order. Every company was brightened by
his coming, every man felt better for having
heard his quaint remarks. There was about him
a droll, a charming irresponsibility — a Thomas
Hood from Michigan.
"I find, as I have found for the fiftieth time
while striving to write these lines, that I am still
too much under the shock caused by his death to
write dispassionately of him. My judgment, the
common sense that one should bring to bear upon
such a subject, is obscured by the vivid picture of
an early morning; and down a dark hallway I
still hear a violent knocking — and then comes a
throbbing silence, and out of that silence comes
an excited whisper — 'Ben King is dead.' "
And John McGovern, a wise and learned phil-
osopher, a true poet, a great architect of real
drama, a deep and wide observer, a keen and
incisive writer, a man with a mighty soul, has
also written of Ben King, in ah. introductory to
the book of verse. What was to have been said
of the quaint and merry minstrel could not have
been better said, so briefly. This is it:
"So far as we know, this young man, now so
suddenly dead, was the drollest mimic and
gentlest humorist of our region. He existed as
the welcome and mirthful shadow of conventional
and tiresome things.
"He began as the expositor of 'The Maiden's
Prayer' on the piano, where each accented note
was flat or sharp, and the music flowed rapidly,
or over great difficulties, as the score might
determine. He arose, and looking half-witted,
recited with unapproachable modesty the stam-
mering delight which he would feel 'if he could
be by Her!' He frowsled his hair and
became Paderewski, who forthwith fell upon the
piano tooth and nail, tore up the track, derailed
the symphony, went down stairs and shook the
furnace, fainted at the pedals, and was carried
out rigid by supers — the greatest pianist of any
183 TEN WISE MEN
WILS S. HAYS.
AND SOME MO RE 169
age. He wrote 'If I should Die To-night' — a
parody that was accepted as the true original,
the sun, the center of the great If-I-should-die-to-
night system of thought and poetry. He wrote
the Poet's Lament — that there was nothing to eat
but food, and nowhere to come but off. The
artists of the newspaper world generously sprang
to his side; they placed him pictorially before the
people, and determined, with almost prophetic
spirit, that our small circle should not alone dwell
with undiminishing laughter upon the gambols of
Ben King. He was coldly, then not coldly, then
warmly received by the church fairs, the clubs,
and the Elks, where he got a supper — if any were
left. At last he charged a small sum for appear-
ing publicly, and this sum was rapidly enlarging
and his fortune was in sight, when the hotel
porter found him dead in his room at Bowling
"During the years we knew him, he never spoke
to us in a disparaging way concerning any other
person, and unless Paderewski's comb might have
been ruffled by Ben's exhibition of hair and haste
in piano-playing, no parody, or perk, or prank of
Ben King ever depended for its success upon the
wounding of another creature's feelings.
"We all accounted him a genius and while we
could not guess what he would do next, we
awaited his performances with complacence,
laughing as if we owned him and had ourselves
ordered his latest jeu d'esprit.
"We deplored the untimely moment of his end;
we held beautiful, solemn and impressive memorial
services over his body, with music by the sweet
singers whom he had loved when he was alive, and
touching words by ministers of the gospel; we
buried him affectionately, as one who could least
be spared from -our circle; and as we were the
witnesses of what he did, we now charge ourselves
to be the testimonies of his rare talents."
Col. Will S. Hays, when he was only a captain
— of a steamboat — (he's a Kentucky colonel now)
170 TEN WISE MEN
took Stephen C. Foster, the song-writer, with him
as his guest down to New Orleans on the steamer
that Hays commanded. Hays had for many years
been the steamboat editor — "River Editor" was
the title — of Harney's Louisville Democrat and he
had written many songs that became so popular
that some of them became excruciating through
being loaded into hand-organs and otner instru-
ments of public torture. However, the songs of
Hays were delicious before they were brutalized
as indicated. But the hand-organs and other in-
struments of public torture do not have tnem any
more, and as Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes has said :
"Silence like a poultice comes to heal the blows of
sound," so far as the organized songs are con-
cerned, and Hays' songs are all a sweet memory
among "The songs we used to sing."
Foster had written "Swanee River," 'Massa's in
de Cold, Cold Ground," "Old Kentucky Home,"
and hundreds of other plantation melodies before
he had ever seen a Southern plantation or a
negro slave. After Captain Hays had taken him
"down the river" and had shown him the things
he had written about, he went back to his North-
ern home and never afterward wrote a plantation
song. Perhaps he had already written all the
songs that were in him, about darkies and planta-
tions, or it might have been that seeing the real
thing took the inspiration away from him, there is
no telling now. But of one thing it is certain
that while Foster's songs, of the sort alluded to,
are among the sweetest of all folklore songs, and
that many of them are yet wonderfully popular,
and more so in the South than elsewhere, it is a
fact that the singer often used words in his songs
that never did belong to the patois, dialect, or
whatever you may call it, of the slave negroes of
the Southern States " 'fo' de waugh."
Ben King wrote a great deal of negro dialect
before he had ever been south of "Mason and
Dixon's line," but for some occult reason he was
always correct in the manner of darky colloquial-
isms. This was another of his strange gifts. In-
AND SOME MORE 171
deed, King was correct in all the dialects that he
esayed, and they were many.
Of course it is paradoxical to speak of correct-
ness in any dialect, for incorrectness is what
makes dialects. Yet there is a way of writing
them "to the manner born." That was what
King did, and it was a gift. Everything King
could do was a gift. He never studied anything,
nor practiced. The things that he could do he just
did. And they were many, as poet and pianist.
He wrote or improvised something and at the first
opportunity he recited or played it. But he never
made a speech about it. He couldn't. Doubtless
he thought it was not worth while — if he thought
at all about it — and, generally, it isn't worth
while. Audiences, for the most part, do not care
for why a poet wrote a poem, unless they are more
interested in the poet than the poem. In that
event it is best to make a speech and not recite
As to Ben King's personality: He was peculiar
in many ways.
Those who remember him imitating Pade-
rewski's hair, probably carried away the impres-
sion that King was slouchy in habit. The fact is
that he generally wore a silk hat and kid gloves
and dressed to them. At any rate he was about
the best dressed man in his circle.
And King had curious ways:
He came into the Press Club of Chicago one
evening, shortly after his arrival from St. Joseph.
Boiling Arthur Johnson, who is all the time "dis-
covering" somebody, had "discovered" King and
he brought the man there to "show him off."
King instantly and distinctly won everybody pres-
ent, and the occasion was something of a function.
Then King stayed there — and at the Whitechapel
Club. For years he was not a member of the
Press Club, but he "belonged" just the same.
Then it was suggested that he should be elected
to membership without payment of the usual fee.
Thus he became enrolled.
Previously King had been at the beck and call
TEN WISE MEN
AND SOME MORE 173
of the club, in the matter of helping on the enter-
tainment programs. Besides, he would do his
wonderful things on the piano for anyone that
asked him, freely and always pleasingly, to a
After he became an enrolled member he
changed, utterly. He would not allow his name to
go on any program, in the club, and- he would not
do any of his "stunts" for anybody there, under
Finally a bill for club dues was presented him.
This he failed to pay and in due course was
"suspended" and "dropped." But he stayed on
and at once renewed his "stunts," as frequently,
complacently and obligingly as before, and noth-
ing was ever said to him again about membership
He was simply "a matter of course," to all
others — and himself.
Withal, King was neither "close" nor impecuni-
ous. He did not seem to be able to harmonize the
payment of club dues, with being "the life of the
company." He never made any remarks on the
subject, but it looked as if he felt that his dignity
as a club member did not comport with doing
"stunts." At any rate that was the way he acted
about it and his silent dictum was accepted,
Beside all other captivating things that King
did that night at Bowling Green, he recited his
verses entitled: "If I Should Die To-night," and
the audience fairly roared with the humor of the
lines and King's delicious manner of reading them.
Here are the words of the verses:
"If I should die to-night,
And you should come to my cold corpse and say,
Weeping and heartsick o'er my lifeless clay —
If I should die to-night,
And you should come in deepest grief and woe — -
And say: 'Here's that ten dollars that I owe,'
I might arise in my large white cravat
And say: 'What's that?'
174 TEN WI 8 E M EN
"If I should die to-night
And you should come to n^ cold corpse and
Clasping my bier to show the grief you feel —
I say, if I should die to-night
And you should come to me, and there and then
Just even hint 'bout payin' me that ten,
I might arise the while,
But I'd drop dead again."
Dr. Hugh Blake Williams, an eminent physician
and surgeon of Chicago, was exceeding fond of
Ben King and delighted in his eccentricities of pen
and character. Dr. Williams is a charming poet
and humorist, withal, but he holds somewhat in
abeyance his own accomplishments as versifier
and wit in business deference to his profession.
Frequently, however, he indulges in reminiscent
stories of King, one of which is this:
"Ben came to me one day complaining of being
much out of sorts.
"'Where?' I inquired.
" 'Right here in Chicago,' he replied.
"'But where are you suffering, Ben?'
" 'Everywhere — I can't go anywhere that I don't
" 'Now, see here, Ben, quit your idiotic foolish-
ness and tell me what part of your body you are
" 'Lord Bless you, Doctor, I'm not suffering in
my body, at all. It's my spirit.'
" 'What's the matter with your spirit?'
" 'Well, just between you and me, Doc, the last
lot of spirit I rasseled with had too much water
in it, I think.'
" 'Water on the brain is the trouble with you,
" 'Well, maybe. I dunno. But I feel like weep-
ing, a whole lot. That'll keep me from drowning,
"'Get out! I'm busy.'
AND SOME MORE 175
" 'I wouldn't have come here, Doc, if I hadn't
expected to get out. But it's because you are so
busy that I came. Charlie Perkins told me that
you are working too hard, and Charlie's afraid of
that — work.'
" 'Don't ferment, Doc. That's more work. Good-
"He went away with that awfully funny-serious
look of his, and I never saw him again. He went
South on that tour with Opie Read, and when he
came back his spirit was not with him."
THE SUM OF LIFE.
Nothing to do but work,
Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes,
To keep one from going nude.
Nothing to breathe but air,
Quick as a flash 'tis gone,
Nowhere to fall but off,
Nowhere to stand but on.
Nothing to comb but hair,
Nowhere to sleep but in bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
Nothing to bury but dead.
Nothing to sing but songs,
Ah well! alas! alack!
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back.
Nothing to see but sights,
Nothing to quench but thirst,
Nothing to have but what we've got,
Thus through life we are cursed.
Nothing to strike but a gait,
Everything moves that goes,
Nothing at all but common sense,
Can ever withstand these woes.
176 TEN WI SE MEN
Scintillating along the forty-odd years during
which I met and meandered with the "Ten Wise
Men" who dominate the preceding chapters in this
book, were many other brilliant men who, in
humorous writing, did things that were calculated
to warm the heart and promote a healthy con-
dition of the soul. Nearly every man of them
wrote true poetry, also, betimes; many of them
were my devoted friends, all of them pleasant
acquaintances — else I should not presume to write
of them, for I mortally fear to take liberties with
unfamiliar persons, or at arm's length, and it
would be dreadful, under such circumstances, to be
Some of these have flashed like meteors from
zenith to horizon, and some have, as
"Yon bright and glorious blazonry of God,
Glittered a while in their eternal depths,
And like the Pleiad, lovliest of their train,
Shot from their glorious spheres, and passed away
To darkle in the trackless void."
Some have deliberately retired from the field of
humor to seek success in more serious paths;
some have failed for lack of exploitation, or of
And here are the youngsters, who at. this very
day are cultivating their fame — many of them
with enviable success — and it is eminently good to
be one who raises smiles and laughter, even where
smiles and laughter have bloomed and fruited be-
fore. The world needs all it can get of jolly things.
There will always be more than enough of the stuff
that tests mental digestion and of that which lies
heavy on the soul.
AND SOME MORE 177
Indeed, after all, these youngsters are the more
important of the category. "Who's Who in the
World" does not contain the names of other than
the live ones.
OF TILTEREENA FAME.
Of those who flashed was "Darby" Doyle. He
was, in the late 60's, a reporter on the Louisville
Courier, before the consolidation with the Journal.
Doyle wrote the wittiest sort of things about the
proceedings of the police court — the first man to
enter that field of burlesque and ridicule — and he
made the local columns of the Courier fairly glitter
with his witticisms concerning social and munici-
pal happenings. He also published a little book
called "Tiltereena" that was mirthful concerning
the tilting hoop-skirts, fashionable in those days.
This brochure had a large sale throughout the
country and it was a scream of fun.
Doyle left newspaperdom to become a lieutenant
in the regular army. In a short time after joining
he provoked a fellow officer to a duel and was
cashiered, or allowed to resign, and the last I saw
or heard of him — which was more than thirty
years ago — he was a clerk in the Second Auditor's
office of the General Post Office at Washington. He
is probably in a better place — where all good
humorists should be heartily welcomed, on ac-
count of missionary work here below.
Why a man as respectable looking as was J. B.
Johnson of the old Louisville Courier and a contem-
porary of Doyle, shouid have been called "Jabe,"
is a problem that we need not take time to solve,
as to quote "Mr. Toots," "It's of no consequence,"
anyhow. Johnson was an editorial writer, but he
perpetrated much humor in newspaper sketches
concerning political and domestic economies, over
178 TEN WI SE MEN
the nom-de-plume of "Yuba Dam," which was sug-
gested to him by the name of a mining town in
California, "in the days of old, and the days of
gold, and the days of '49." He was quoted a great
deal in the newspapers of his day, and beside his
humor he wrote exquisite verses. One of his
poems, entitled "Three Graves," was a perfect
poem and contained a bit of pathos as pure and
touching as has ever been written. It was of only
three short stanzas and was elegiac to the death of
his wife and two babes. Johnson died in 1870 in
A KENTUCKY COLONEL.
Will S. Hays, who is casually mentioned else-
where in these papers, was another of the poet-
humorists of Louisville, and is yet, for that matter.
He was "hand-in-glove" with every steamboat cap-
tain, pilot, clerk and mate on the Ohio and Missis-
sippi rivers and contributory streams, and was the
""river-editor" of Harney's Daily Democrat in the
days of the "palatial steamers" and was, for a
time, captain of a boat named for him. He had a
funny column in his department of that journal
and was the toast of all riverdom. Besides tye
wrote hundreds of popular songs — five hundred
perhaps — among them, "Nora O'Neil," "The Wan-
dering Refuge," "Evangeline," "Josephus Orange
Blossom" and many others that raged epidemically
throughout the land.
Hays, who is now a Kentucky "Colonel" is a
hale, hearty, white-haired and distingushed-look-
ing, elderly gentleman of Louisville, a writer for
the Courier- Journal and organist for one of the
most prominent churches.
Not long ago, when some important ceremony
was pending the vestry asked Colonel Hays to
give them on this great occasion the best thing
he could do in the way of a "voluntary."
AND SOME MORE 179
"The remarkable music, 'My Alabama Coon,' "
said Hays, "was running in my head. I pumped
it out on that great organ, disguised with varia-
tions and somewhat changed in tempo, and Oh!
how it caught them. Many persons came to me
after the service and congratulated me on having
done the best thing of my life. I thought of
hundreds of other things that I had done in the
way of music, and I am not sure yet that the
compliments fitted my feelings with the nicety of
bark on a beech tree."
A little while ago Hays was a visitor in Chi-
cago, and while there he accompanied a friend to
a great department store. The friend introduced
Colonel Hays to a dapper salesman in the music-
room as a writer of songs.
"Did you ever write any colored songs?" the
young man asked the white haired veteran.
"No," the colonel replied. "No, not any colored
songs. I have occasionally written a negro song."
[Since these lines concerning Will S. Hays were
written he has gone to that bourne where songs
are being sung forever.
OUT OF HIS HEAD.
Charles R. Luster was a young tramp-printer in
1871, working on the newspapers of Kansas City
as a compositor. He rarely made a remark and
was not suspected of humor in any of its forms.
One day he walked away from Kansas City and
was next heard of setting type on a weekly at
Brunswick, Missouri. Evidently he had wearied
of metropolitan life and seemed to have sought the
rural districts as a relief. But even there he was
not often heard to say much beyond telling what
he wanted at his meals. All of a sudden he took
to setting up in type, at his cases, in the Bruns-
wicker printing office, wonderfully funny and en-
tertaining stories of every-day, domestic life. He
180 TEN W I S E M EN
startled the fun-loving element of the country and
quickly won a national reputation as a humorist.
The editor of one of the great dailies of St. Louis
was so taken with the young printer's humorous
work that he made haste to offer him a lucrative
and high position on his paper.
Luster, with his baggage in his pocket, took the
next train for St. Louis and at the end of a day's
travel found his way to the building in which the
great newspaper was printed and published. Here
he discovered that instead of setting his stories in
type, "out of his head," that he would be expected
to go into the editorial rooms, commit his stuff to
manuscript and have others put it in type. With-
out a word he sauntered back to the railway sta-
tion and took the next train for Brunswick. There
he worked for a short time again on the Bruns-
wicker, married his boss's sister and was soon ap-
pointed postmaster of Brunswick; distinctly and
entirely he quit the printing business, all its
associations, "pomps and vanities," and instead of
distributing and disciplining type-metal letters he
has only handled the letters of the post from that
day to this.
Indeed, Luster was funny in merely being alive
and without saying a word on any subject. He was
a good husband, father and neighbor, but it is
questionable whether he ever cared what time it
was, in the day, the week, the month, the year
or the century, except in the matter of having his
mail pouches ready in time for the out-going
A RARE EDITOR.
In 1872 during the time that this chronicler was
city editor of the St. Joseph, Missouri, Herald, a
boy who was working in a dry-goods "emporium"
of that city, with no more intention of becoming a
merchant than he had of becoming a gondolier in
Venice, but who was only biding his time, fre-
AND SOME MORE 181
quently handed me a slip of paper with something
that he had written on it and advising that it be
printed in the newspaper in order to shine the old
thing up a bit. These were, for the most part,
verses, and occasionally an entertaining item of
news, brightly written and often bubbling with
humor. These bits were invariably printed in the
newspaper at the proper time. Finally the youth
confessed that his aim in life was to become a
newspaper man. But he had yet a certain time
to fill out with the dry-goods emporium.
One day I asked him to come up to the Herald
office that evening as the election returns would
be coming in and he could help to do the figuring.
He said: "I can't figure worth a cent, but I will
bring up my rabbits. They beat any thing to
He came, however, without the rabbits and did
his first night's work on a newspaper. That was
John J. Flinn, twice elected President of the Chi-
cago Press Club and the latest ex-incumbent of
that important place.
Shortly after the incident of the "figures" it
became necessary for me to go to Atchison, Kan-
sas, to take part in the celebration of the com-
pletion of the great railway bridge that had been
constructed across the Missouri river at that point.
Flinn went along to assist in reporting the affair.
It was an important occasion. Orators from Mis-
souri and Kansas were to speak and the governors
of the two states were to shake hands, metaphor-
ically, across the muddy chasm. Again I had been
"made" a poet, for "this occasion only." I was to
ride in the procession with the governors, wear
labels and "read my piece," at the proper stage of
the proceedings. Flinn was to take in the sit-
uation, reportorially and generally, and I was to
come down from the "high horse" and help him
with the whole thing after the ceremonies on the
orators' stand were over.
TEN WISE MEN
JOHN J. FLINN.
AND SOME MORE 183
Plinn went at the work with a zeal and earnest-
ness that was admirable and somewhat imposing*
It was his first real newspaper work. He was
here, there and everywhere in the crowd, on that
sweltering summer day, making notes of every-
thing he saw bearing upon the situation. When
the time came for the speech-making Flinn was
on the platform benind the governors, and all that,
w^th a pile of blank paper as wide as an atlas
and thick as a dictionary, prepared to take down
the speeches. The platform was large enough for
a dozen political parties to stand on, and many
other persons occupied it beside those who had
business there. Flinn desired to have those know
that he was a reporter. Nearly all young reporters
are that way at first, but they quickly get over
it. This young reporter — he was not twenty years
old yet — sat there with his hands full of pencils,
and some behind his ears, sharpened at both ends.
He made hen-track hieroglyphics on that paper,
conscious that the gang on the platform was
watching him, and he was making as if he were
taking those speeches in short-hand, when the
truth was, that at that time, he was as innocent
of short-hand as he was of Sanscrit. He made
his point, however; he led those "rubes," who
knew no more of stenography than he did, to
believe that he was simply a record-breaker in
the science. Between the two of us we got the
manuscripts of the speeches after the exercises
were over. Flinn also took the "poem" in "short-
hand," though the thing itself was at that moment
standing in cold type on a "galley" in the Herald
office, and he knew it, for I read it from a proof
Flinn worked for some months on the Herald,
then went to St. Louis where he took a promi-
nent place on the Globe-Democrat with J. T. Mc-
Cullagh, famous as "Little Mack" in the field cor-
respondence of the Civil War.
184 TEN WISE MEN
About the year 1875 John J. Flinn went to Chi-
cago and was of the original staff of the Chicago
News out of which grew the Record which is now
the great newspaper establishment known as the
Flinn was the managing editor of the News and
since his work there began, the story of his life
is the story of a remarkable newspaper career. In
it all he has written a world of the brightest hu-
mor for which he has had little credit, as his
humor nas been largely used in the impersonality
of editorial articles and paragraphs. At this writ-
ing Flinn is an editorial writer on the Chicago
Inter-Ocean and is an Alderman of the flourishing
city of Evanston, one of Chicago's finest suburban
adjuncts. Men of the highest scholarship, and
some of the brightest newspaper men of the country
declare that John Flinn is as great an editorial
writer as there is in the world, and his keen wit
and bubbling humor, associated with much at-
tainment in knowledge, an intuitive news sense
and a long and varied experience in newspaper-
dom, have made his success.
Flinn was appointed United States consul to
Chemnitz, Saxony, in 1882, by President Arthur,
and for some years after his return to America
he owned and conducted in Chicago a brilliant
periodical called "The Observer." During the
Columbian Exposition at Chicago, Flinn compiled
all the official Guides to the World's Fair and at
that time he wrote "Helen Vincent," a highly suc-
cessful novel founded upon incidents of that world-
Having closely watched John Flinn's career from
his boyhood he is to me a wonder and a revelation.
It would take a big book to tell of all the important
newspaper enterprises alone that he has orig-
inated and successfully managed, and his other
commendable achievements have been numerous
and varied. From "bundle-boy" in a dry goods
store to all the high places he has held is splendid.
AND SOME MORE 185
With it all to have been a charter member of the
Chicago Press Club, and President of that body
twenty-five years afterwards, without seeking the
place, is much, but added to this is the fact that
during his incumbency the Press Club nearly
doubled in membership and is today, beyond per-
adventure, the greatest organization of its kind
that the world has ever nad.
Since this was written John J. Plinn has become
the editor of a Christian Science publication in
Boston. When he left Chicago the Press Club
gave a brilliant banquet in his honor.
a "web-foot" humokist.
"Rabelais" is the pen name of R. W. Mitchell
who was for a decade or so, toward the near end
of the last century, pre-eminently the humorous
writer of the "Oregon Country." Mr. Mitchell
flourished on Portland newspapers during the time
suggested, and he not only made a reputation as
humorist but was highly regarded as an enter-
prising and progressive citizen. Particularly he
was a promoter of industrial expositions that were
calculated to advertise the resources of the region
in which he lived, and it was for this, rather than
the "potential drag" of politics, that led the people
of his state to exalt him to the position of Lieu-
tenant Governor of Oregon.
Simply as the nearest illustration at hand of his
manner of humor, the following paragraph from
a letter of his written to this writer, then Presi-
dent of the Washington State Press Association,
while the organization was in annual convention,
"For the Colorado-Maduro editor I have some
affection. I mean the non-committal editor who
is too strong of mind to wed and too weak of
purpose to get married; tne man whose hopes
bubble up like a glass of soda-water when first
TEN WISE MEN
drawn and then simmer and shrink like a bucket
of hesitation in a case of emergency. My sympa-
thies go out to such a man and pump him to find
out the trouble, only to learn that he has been
too indiscriminate to criminate himself, too gen-
John Flinn kin write poetry all right.
eral and not private enough, and shaking in the
cowardly fear of offending one girl he has pleased
none. Then there's the young country editor,
whom I admire also, too. Any young man who
will take his short life in one hand and a glazed
grip in the other and go out among the sage ticks,
AND SOME MORE
or into a far fir forest cutting 90,000 feet to the
acre to teach utter strangers how to live, when
to die, how to vote, how to fix an alibi in cases
of extreme guilt, advise them when technical dis-
eases can be cured and suggest the safest way
to send in subscriptions, deserves credit. I won't
say how much or for how long."
ONE OF THE DA VISES.
For the last 28 years Sam P. Davis has been
the owner and editor of the Carson, Nevada, Ap-
■ H *«* : -if
peal. He is not conceited and yet he pretended
to be somewhat astonished, lately, upon discovery
that everybody in the world did not know that he
was born in Branford, Connecticut, on the 4th
188 TEN WISE MEN
day of April, 1850. But he has commended the
movement for getting out a book in which that
fact shall be suddenly and unflickeringly blazed
forth — so to speak.
However, being born at Branford is not the
only thing that has happened to Davis or Bran-
ford. Racine College, Wisconsin, has whatever
credit is due for this man's academic education
and he began his newspaper work as the corre-
spondent in the Nebraska legislature, at Lincoln,
of the Omaha Herald. But a mob that he had
exposed offered objections to nis staying in Lin-
coln. He could not safely withstand these and
while another person continued the raking process,
over Davis' signature, that veracious and earnest
correspondent of search-light introspection and
exposition, took much-needed rest — and security —
on an obscure rancn near Beatrice and distant
from Lincoln, also Omaha.
Having thus closed his legislative career Davis
labored for a time on the Chicago Times as a
reporter and then went to San Francisco where
for several years he was engaged as a special
writer on numerous newspapers and periodicals
of that city some more years before going to
Carson and the Appeal.
Since his inhabitation of Nevada began Mr.
Davis has been elected to serve two terms con-
secutively as State Controller and has refused
another term offered him by acclamation. As
Insurance Commissioner, ex-officio, he created some
sensations in insurance circles that redounded
forcibly for the interests of policy-holders in life
insurance, wherever. Lately, Davis has been ap-
pointed Chief of the Nevada Industrial and Pub-
licity Bureau and writes that he may be ex-
pected to permeate the east with a long and im-
posing railway train loaded with Nevada "boost-
ers" and other products of his sierran suzerainity,
including so much free-gold-bearing quartz that
AND SOME MORE 189
the "16-to-l" party will be glad that the issue was
such a successful dissolving-view.
Sam Davis has been known on the Pacific Coast
for nearly forty years as a brilliant writer of
humor, short stories and poetry an^ as an essay-
ist and philosopher. He is always charged ex-
plosively with the best sort of witty oratory and
he is ever an enthusiastic patriot. His little ro-
mances have been numerous and particularly orig-
inal and many of them have been translated into
the languages of foreign lands. Especially is this
true of one entitled "The First Piano in Camp,"
and that has also been numerously and variedly
rehashed in verse.
Sam Davis is the son of a clergyman and has
demonstrated and exemplified during his life the
proverbial wickedness of preachers' boys. How-
ever, Sam's wickedness has been of a more or
less commendable kind and has largely run to a
harmless yet peculiar style of practical joking.
For instance, he used frequently to entertain rev-
erend, though strange visitors to his reverend
father by impersonating the elder Davis in the
privacy of the latter's study and plying the oft-
times willing and always pious guests with rum
and cigars hilariously.
A typical illustration of Davis' joking propen-
sity is presented in the following incident:
While Davis was, in a way, the city-literary-
managing-and-general editor of a certain San
Francisco newspaper, a poet whose imposing name
wes Seneca Xenophon Something, had the habit
of writing verses that were frequently printed in
that journal. The proprietor of this newspaper
was as illiterate as an infant but his name was
printed at the head of the editorial columns as
editor and he made it a rule that proof-slips of all
original literary matter intended for insertion in
his paper should be laid upon his table. He had
been an admirer of Seneca Xenophon but for some
personal reason had come to dislike the versifying
190 TEN WI S E MEN
namesake of the Roman philosopher and the
Athenian historian. Hence he had charged Davis
that no more of Seneca Xenophon's poetry should
be published under the auspices of his diurnal
Here was an opportunity for action by the Davis
joking proclivity. Mr. Davis caused to be placed in
type one of Byron's finest poems and with Seneca
Xenophon's name in capital letters attached
thereto. The poem was the rich and epical,
"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold."
This was duly placed on the proprietor's table
and shortly that irate promotor entered the city,
etc., editor's room with the offending proof-slip
streaming between fingers of his.
"Sam Davis," he began, "I thought I had asked
you not to allow any more of Seneca Xenophon's
poetry to go into my newspaper!"
"Yes, you did," replied the lamb-personifying
Davis, "but I thought that this poem was so ex-
ceptionally good that we would be doing the paper
an injustice, net to say violence, in failing to
"On the contrary, sir — and I hope to be allowed
some little right to judge, in this case at least — the
stuff is a lot of blasted rot and must be killed."
That was what Sam Davis wanted, but the joke
ramified San Francisco newspaperdom all the
Just as red hair, pulchritude, rectitude, avoir-
dupois, lankiness, or any other physical charac-
teristic (rectitude is here included because, fre-
quently, much main strength is required to keep
it up) runs in families, as do mental character-
istics. Thus quaint humor and a peculiar tenacity
AND SOM E MORE 191
are inherent, hereditary, and protuberant, in Sam
and Bob Davis, brothers.
Their father, who was a clergyman, had the
City directories and other catalogues of men's
names, show numerous Robert H. Davises,
but literature and the ilk of the Robert H.
Davis concerned in this writing, the brother of
Sam and son of their father, know only one "Bob"
His friends will not admit another.
Persons who have for so many years, as the
writer hereof has, observed the doings of men
worth while, have seen many individuals do great
individual things and forget them, until some
other men come along and do them over, with
much fanfaronade, using, however, the first men's
For instance, Bob Davis went after the outrage
of "Embalmed Beef," interested a great command-
ing general, thus the Government, slew the dragon
and then continued his regular business, non-
chalantly. The fanfaronaders followed, years
afterward, and did their fanfaronading.
Once a man named Langdon Smith wrote a
powerful poem — "Evolution" — that was started
toward Oblivion, by the "smarties," with a shove
that would have dwarfed the impetus of an ava-
lanche. Bob Davis fought for it and saved it.
Literature fondly calls it "The Rescued Poem."
That is enough.
Bob Davis has been doing great things ever
since he was old enough to lend a nana, and for a
long time he had to fight like a wildcat to get the
places where he might do those things.
But he had fun all along the line.
Bob Davis was born in Brownsville, Nebraska,
in 1869. He grew up in the far west. The lift of
the mighty mountains, the tone of the measureless
mesas, the sweep of swift rivers, the roar of cata-
192 TEN WI SE MEN
ROBERT H. DAVIS.
AND SOME MORE 193
racts, the depths of infinite forests, the breadth of
things, and people, red and white, out there, set a
stamp upon this man's nature that metropolis and
cosmopolis have had no more effect to efface than
have the winds of Egypt and the spatter of sand
to wear away the pyramids.
But he has fun, all the time.
Here are some suggestions of Bob Davis, taken,
scattering, from casual letters to a friend:
"Personally, I am for the Red Man. I think he
got a bad deal, and I hope, for his sake, that there
is a happier Hunting Ground ahead than the one
the White Man left behind." * * *
"I want to tell you that I succeeded in landing a
twenty-six-and-a-half pound salmon trout, up
north. If necessary, i can furnish an affidavit to
that effect, signed by both Wilbur Nesbit and S. E.
Kiser. I will admit that they were not there. But,
all the same, the affidavit is enough to cover any
* * *
"The good that men do is all right. The good
they don't do is all wrong. Isn't that a sort of
cousin kin to a paradox?"
* * *
Robert H. Davis — "Bob" — is a chief in the house
of the Munsey Magazines, and his personality —
impersonally — ramifies all of the output of the
establishment. He was a success as a newspaper
man and now he is a success as a magazine man.
His services have been, and are, sought for other
periodicals, but he holds to Munsey loyally, be-
cause he is a loyal man.
Once, after Davis had got a good foothold, he
"All my life people have been trying to keep me
out of the newspaper business. They seemed to
feel that I would fail. They told me kindly,
'Davis, you are in the wrong pew.' Possibly I am
194 TEN WISE MEN
Davis began newspaper work in 1891 on the
Carson Appeal, with his brother Sam. Why he
left there is not recorded. But he went to San
Francisco and got work on the Examiner. Three
several and distinct times the managing editor
discharged him without a letter of recommenda-
tion. Tiring of that sort of jolting, he went to the
Chronicle and failed to "lift the cup." Then he
went to the Call. The "firing" force of that paper
went on a vacation leaving orders that no one
should be "fired" during his absence. Davis got
to stay there quite a time. But the firing force
came back and Davis left. He did not stop west of
New York, and he took with him, Prank Nanki-
vell, the artist, who was also on a still hunt for
recognition. Davis refused, in crossing the conti-
nent, to take work herding cattle, in which he was
known to be eminently capable, and in which
there would have been ample opportunity, now
and then, to paint a town and make himself
known. Even in New York he could not be in-
duced to take the captaincy of a horse-car. But
he went to the Journal and offered the services of
himself and his artist. The powers there were
strong enough to keep him out. Then he went to
the World and informed the managing editor that
he and Nankivell were a combination that metro-
politan journalism could not afford to miss. This
affected the World man hilariously and in his fit
of fine feeling he signed the team.
Davis and Nankivell made a palpable hit, the
first shot, and the Journal became repentant.
For nine years Davis worked on the Journal, in
everything from prize fights to leading editorials,
and he made good — and better. He was sent on
delicate missions of political exploration and he
was Right Bower, no matter what suite was
trumps. During this time he unearthed "Em-
balmed Beef," organized the "Order of Acorns,"
that had much to do with electing Seth Low
mayor of New York and did numerous other in-
AND SOME MORE 195
trepid and eventful things that made folks take
Davis had a season on the Sunday World in
1903, then became Sunday editor of the Daily
News, after Frank Munsey bought it. Later, a
few months, Munsey told Bob to learn the maga-
zine business. Robert obeyed.
Now Bob Davis would have a harder fight get-
ting out than he had getting in.
Isn't this a pretty story, children? And it is all
A SINGER OF THE SOUTH.
Frank Lebby Stanton is best known as the poet
of the Atlanta Constitution, though he is the
author of several books and he writes more quaint,
humorous, little stories — for the most part in
plantation negro dialect — than any one else in his
line, and he is quoted far more, in both verse and
prose, in the newspapers and the humorous de-
partments of other periodicals than any other
printer in the world.
Beyond peradventure, Frank, Stanton is what
might be termed "the suddenest poet" that ever
bestrode Pegasus, or any flying horse in a merry-
One morning, not long ago comparatively speak-
ing, Stanton said to me as we emerged from his
"Perhaps you think you have seen old folks, but
come with me. I'll show you the oldest man this
side of Mars, anyhow."
We went out in the edge of the city, and
turned into a sort of arena surrounded by a wall
that was somewhat of the Mexican "dobey" order.
It was a beer garden, and there were luxuriant
plants and flowers, and there were tables, one of
which came to be luxuriant, directly, and it would
bloom whenever we wished, which was frequent.
The man who waited on us was about eighty
years old, and I asked Stanton if that was what
he called the oldest man this side of Mars.
196 TEN WISE MEN
"Simply a boy," he replied "Is your father
here?" he asked the octogenarian.
"Nein. Mine grosfader ben hare," was the reply.
"Mine fader vas gone der brewery down."
"Can we see your grandfather?" Stanton asked.
"Oh yah! He vill commen. I vill him toldt."
And Octo hurried away. "Hurried," I say, and
that's what he did. He went as if he were a new
bellboy. Not an -experienced one. Experienced
bellboys never hurry, except when off watch.
In a few minutes Octo returned with his grand-
father, who was really about 130 years old. My!
but he was old — the old one, I mean — still he was
all there, and "as happy as a big sunflower." I
don't know exactly how happy a big sunflower is,
but the grosfader was very happy and he told
stories in his native tongue, which, when too deep
for our split German, Octo would show the points
in his split English.
Octo and his grosfader, and the bowers, and
flowers, ahd things, were so entertaining that we
other two stayed at the garden until near the
middle of the afternoon (evening they call it
down there), when all of a sudden it occurred to
the sudden poet that he had some work to do for
the morning edition of the Constitution. So we
had a parting glass with Octo and his grosfader
and sought Stanton's den in the newspaper build-
ing. The poet handed me some late magazines
and said: "Entertain yourself for a few minutes
while I write two or three poems, and I'll be with
you. You haven't seen any part of this town yet.
It's like a mighty big slice of a world's fair.
Papinta is at the theater tonight, and we'll go see
her. She's the poetry of motion."
Frank Stanton was born in Charleston, South
Carolina, in 1857, was educated in the common
schools of that city and served an apprenticeship
as a printer. He still retains some of the instincts
of the old-time printer, as for instance: he likes
to stay up all night at times, so as to "pick up"
himself "fat" in the morning. He has been on the
AND SOME MORE 197
staff of the Atlanta Constitution more than twenty
years, contributes to many magazines and gives
public readings from his stories and verse under
the management of lyceum bureaus.
A SMITH NOT JOHN.
Duncan M. Smith, who writes two columns of
humorous paragraphs for every day in the week
and concerning the current happenings of the
world, social, political and general, for the Chicago
News, is sometimes sad because he was not christ-
ened John and seems to overlook the negative vir-
tue of his ancestors who did not spell Smith with
Smith was born at Rockford, Illinois, but he
will not tell how long ago — and he looks it. Any-
how it was some time during the unpleasantness
between the north and the south. Along about that
time he heard the call of his country but he did
not respond and go to the war as he didn't know
but that it was some of the neighbors scolding
their children. At least that is what he says about
it. The public schools of Rockford did what they
could for him until he was sixteen when his
parents took him westward where, for a time, he
had a more or less thrilling contest with the soil,
but a cyclone literally blew him into the Blue
Valley Blade and the newspaper business at Seward,
Nebraska. He worked there long enough to get the
habit of starting newspapers, and the "long-felt-
wants" that he discovered were astonishing. At
one place of 2,000 inhabitants that had five weekly
papers he discovered that the long-felt-want was a
daily, so he started one. But that in turn started
him again and finally he struck Indiana. There
the poetry germ got into his system. The result
was that he got into Chicago and has been writing
funny verse and the two columns of paragraphs
mentioned, ever since, and that has been nearly a
decade. One of these columns is headed "Hit or
Miss" and he nearly always hits.
198 TEN WISE MEM
DUNCAN M. SMITH.
AND SOME MORE 199
Once the wags of the Chicago Press Club held
a court in which Smith was tried on the charge
of being a poet. He was acquitted.
Aside from his never-failing fund of humor Dun-
can Smith is one of the men who furnish the
brains for very exacting departments in the great
newspapers of the day. Necessarily he is a think-
ing entity of the times, a philosopher who is in
touch with the world, and very alert and industri-
ous. It is doubtful if there be, in all the duties
appertaining to journalism, a more difficult one
than that of a man on the editorial page who has
to show what is going on by the sidelights of
witty paragraphs and verse. But Duncan Smith
does that every working day of his life, and does
While in Washington, Indiana, conducting the
Daily Herald, an incident occurred which he re-
lated to me one evening shortly before this writing.
The managers of the local opera house were ig-
noring his valuable advertising columns, but he
was of too generous a nature to ignore the play-
house in return. Opportunity to reciprocate pleas-
antly came in the form of a female minstrel troupe
that had visited the city on several previous occa-
sions and had played to crowded houses of men
only. As soon as announcement of the performance
was made Smith began treating it as the leading
society event of the season and promising as a
special mark of distinction to print the names of
all those who might attend as a particular favor
to them and to the management. For a week the
town was guessing — opinion being divided — as to
whether he would dare do such a thing. The night
came and instead of the usual crowded house only
about a baker's dozen attended and most of them
on complimentaries. While he didn't print the
names next day, offering as an excuse the small
number who had been present, he did business
after that with the opera house on a cash basis.
In starting newspapers Smith always made it a
TEN WISE MEN
point to have "the largest circulation of any other
paper in that city," even though he had only
started it the day before, and he always and imme-
Smith with his rapid fire gun Hit or Miss. Mostly hit.
diately advertised that fact in the most earnest,
unqualified and threatening way.
Mr. Smith was married while he was carrying
on the York, Nebraska, Daily Independent, to Miss
Grace Woodward, of Defiance, Ohio.
AND SOME MORE
A LUMBER POET.
Of the rising generation of humorists one of
the most promising is Douglas Malloch, the Chi-
cago poet, whose portrayals of the humor of lum-
ber camps and the sentiment of the forest have
already won him unique, gratifying and lucrative
position and fame. Mr. J. E. Defebaugh, who has
built up in the American Lumberman the most
valuable trade journal in the world, has the good
taste and business judgment to make his publica-
tion entertaining as well as commercially reliable
and important in the line to which it caters. To
that end he employs on his editorial staff this
brilliant young Malloch in the conduct of a dis-
tinct department wherein the special gifts, indi-
cated, of this humorist of the forest, are exploited
TEN WISE MEN
to the fullest. Beside this work Malloch does
much in contributions to leading magazines and a
famous publishing house has lately brought out
in elegant dress his first book of poems, entitled
"In Forest Land."
Of influential family Douglas Malloch was born
May 5, 1877, in the saw mill town of Muskegon,
Michigan, near the banks of Muskegon Lake,
from which the town takes its name, and other
things, including fish and sawlogs. Mal-
loch declares that he was largely raised on
a diet of sawdust and claims to have been the
original breakfast food ba-
by. It is a far jump, but
Alvah Milton Kerr, the fa-
mous western novelist, and
long time an associate of
Don Piatt in Washington
journalism, describes Mal-
loch as the greatest writer
of aphorisms in America.
Malloch's wit is gentle
enough, natively, but he is
5^ incisive when occasion de-
mands. He is in frequent
demand as an after-dinner
speaker at art, social and
On one occasion he was
being entertained by the
Palette and Chisel Club in
Chicago and was urged to
tell a story, an art in which
he is skillful. A prominent
landscape painter, himself
noted for his sarcasm, joined in the request:
"Go ahead, Malloch," he said. "We will enjoy
the novelty. You know up here we don't spend our
time telling jokes."
Alvah Milan Kerr says.
AND 80 M E MORE 203
"No," replied the forest poet, looking fixedly at
one of the artist's landscapes then on exhibition.
"No, up here you hang them on the wall."
A good story of a humorist hoist by his own
petard is told at Malloch's expense. Before the
old Russell House in Detroit had been torn down
to make room for the magnificent Pontchartrain,
Malloch, while in that city, went up to the hotel
cashier's desk to cash a check. The cashier passed
it back and silently pointed to a sign over the
window which read:
"Honor thy father and thy mother
— but not a stranger's checks."
The paraphrased commandment quoted by the
sign was a paragraph that Malloch had written
for one of the humorous weeklies years before.
Many critics have hailed Malloch as the suc-
cessor of Bret Harte. He is tall, angular, charm-
ingly awkward, forcibly oratorical and tremend-
ously sincere when he speaks.
A great newspaper says of Malloch's work: "His
field is new, his knowledge exact and his inspira-
tion is genuine. He knows the forest as the sailor
knows the sea."
Byron Williams is known to more editors and
publishers in the West, personally and profes-
sionally, than any other single individual in his
line living. And yet Williams is not single, though
somewhat singular. Think of a young and hand-
some man being affectionately called "Uncle By"
by two-thirds of the rural editors west of the
Alleghany mountains and east of the Rockies,
who is proud of the appellation and cultivates it!
Williams has a syndicate of more than two hun-
dred newspapers that he supplies with six columns
per week of humor and pathos, in verse and prose,
that is entitled '"Little Visits with Uncle By."
TEN WISE MEN
That accounts, in a degree, for his acquaintance-
ship with the rural editors, but nothing, except
that which can elucidate occult phenomena, can
account for the quantity of pleasing material with
which he verdures the waste places in their news-
papers. His enormous capacity for work and his
perennial flow and glow of happy-heartedness is,
however, something of a suggestion in the prem-
Lately a huge and richly illustrated volume,
entitled "Down Country Lanes," the work of Byron
Williams, came from the press, and of it one critic
"To the people of the city who can remember
when they lived in the country, Mr. Williams'
AND SOME MOR
"Uncle By" down at the|Farm.
206 TEN WI SE MEN
poems are full of pleasing reminiscences. He takes
you back to the old home, the old lane, the rail
fences, the whistle of the bob-white and drops you
into the old swimmin' hole with a splash."
Williams was born and brought up in Iowa. It
was in March, "during the year of the big wind,"
that he was born, he says, and he has been blow-
ing over it ever since. His March characteristics
are that he is something of a lion in society and
yet he is as gentle as a lamb about it. Definiteness
cannot be arrived at as to where in Iowa he was
brought up, for he was very scattering in his
youth, having been a printer from the time he can
remember and one with the habit of starting news-
papers. Once, indeed, he owned a farm with a
small house and a big mortgage on it. In the mean-
time, however, he got a "right smart schooling"
and he also took a diploma at college. As no one
made him put it back, he has the diploma yet.
In Charles City, Iowa, he got hold of another pa-
per and was also married. He did not like the
paper but he has always been fond of his wife.
So he sold the paper and went to Chicago, taking
Mrs. Williams with him, and was happy ever after.
Besides carrying on his syndicate, Mr. Williams
is the editor of a handsome periodical, carried on
in the interest of the printing business, The West-
ern Publisher, owned by the Western Newspaper
Union; he is one of the directors of the Chicago
Press Club and is the proud owner of a charming
suburban home at Glen Ellyn, where a Press Club
colony has acquired a lake, an island, some woods,
proximity to a pretty village and acre lots in sev-
eralty, with all the indebtedness thereunto apper-
taining. But the place is only forty minutes from
"The Loop," and as all the colonists are very busy
men in the city, they have very little time to brood
over impending installments.
AND SOME MORE
A DAILY POET.
Wilbur D. Nesbit was born in Xenia, Ohio, in
1871. The little bouse in which he was born still
stands on Main street, and a couple of years ago
the city placed on it a handsome metal tablet
reading "Main Street." It gratified Nesbit very
much to learn that his birthplace had thus been
marked. Nesbit learned to set type when 7 years
old, and one day he set up a poem. Now he will
WILBUR D. NESBIT.
set up a poem, or a cigar, whenever it is his turn
Realizing that the fount of inspiration in Ohio
was not as Pierian as it should be, he went to
Indiana and lived there long enough to get the
208 TEN WISE MEN
After some intermittent and feverish work as an
"ad" writer and at newspaper work on the In-
dianapolis Journal, Nesbit went to Baltimore,
where for four years he did a humorous column
on the American. Then he came to Chicago, to do
similar work on the Tribune. After four years of
service on the Tribune he began syndicating his
matter. Then he followed the example of that
other verse writer, Shakespeare, and tried his
hand at writing shows.
Nesbit has published "The Trail to Boyland,"
"The Gentleman Ragman," "A Book of Poems,"
"The Land of Make-Believe," and four or five
That is about the way Nesbit told it when he
was interviewed "for his life." The story is too
short and flippant, but Nesbit is a modest man.
Really he is one of the true humorists of his gen-
eration and he writes pure poetry when he pleases
— often when others please. His four years on the
Tribune were in the position of "daily poet," and
some of his work then, in that line, was of the
best that was produced anywhere.
All of Nesbit's qualities are sterling. His man-
hood is of the highest order. It would be impos-
sible for him to seem other than he is. He hates
sham. He is fond of his friends and they know it.
Persons who give him cause to dislike them learn
that he has marked them out of his "calling list"
as quickly as he does. He is careful and syste-
matic in his work and his literature — dramatic
and humorous, as well as poetic — always rings
true. He will become famous as a writer of plays
and eminently successful. The start that he has
made in that line with his boundless energy,
earnestness and industry, combined with his in-
stant ability, are almost sufficient evidence of
what he will do and that it will be standard.
Nesbit is remarkably happy and entertaining be-
fore an audience on convivial occasions and on the
rostrum. His quick wit and cameo-cut expressive-
ness are charming and he presents his thoughts at
AND SOME MORE
such times with an ease and nonchalance that
are rare, cordial and welcome, and his spontan-
iety is refreshing.
Nesbit is a member of the "Humorists' Union,"
and is probably a "walking delegate," as he is one
of those who rides — and he rides high. Nesbit is
also president of the famous "40 Club" of Chicago.
He is now of the staff of the Chicago Post.
S. E. KISE
THE "ALTERNATING CUERENTS" MAN.
During the time when nearly all the other men-
folks of Pennsylvania were "totin' guns" down in
the mud of the "Peninsula" in Virginia and with
Grant at Donelson, Nashville, and other localities
of the Confederacy in the early days of 1862,
TEN WISE MEN
Samuel Ellsworth Kiser came into the Keystone
State at Shippensville and put up some protests,
not particularly as to the conduct of the war,
which was quite the habit among stay-at-home
generals about that time, but rather upon the
conduct of things generally. However, as he grew
in years he also grew to think better of all things,
and this happy manner increased with him until
it made him a real poet-humorist — moreover a
Under the head of "Al-
ternating Currents," Mr.
Kiser writes, every day, in
the Record-Herald of Chi-
cago, on the editorial page,
a column of bright things
witty and wise in verse
and prose, upon the cur-
rent affairs of the world
or any other subject that
strikes his fancy. Mr.
Kiser also contributes co-
piously, rhyme, reason and
romance to magazines
that demand a high order
of light literature. His
books, which are all from
the standard press, are
"Bud Wilkins at the S> E> Klser as the offlce boy
Show," a volume of verse, "Georgie," "Love Son-
nets of an Office Boy," "Ballads of the Busy
Days," "Charles the Chauffer," etc.
Mr. Kiser is a quiet young man who is very
much in earnest, notwithstanding his perennial
humor that is quaint and true. His work is among
the most popular of the present generation of
humorists, and his fame grows apace.
AND SOME MORE 211
The following selections suggest the manner of
Mr. Riser's newspaper work:
"A man never has to hunt long to find a girl's
mouth in the dark.
"The bitterest of all good medicines is work.
"The difference between a politician and a
statesman is about the same as the difference be-
tween a 'sport' and a sportsman.
"If people could learn not to care for wealth it
would come easy.
"It matters not how weary and unhappy she may
be, a married woman always gets excited when a
girl with a love affair comes around.
"A good and cheerful old man comes as near
being godlike as any may be in this world."
Following is one of Mr. Kiser's humorous
they've given pa a raise.
Say, you ought to hear ma singin' — she's as happy
as a lark,
And her smile stays on from mornin' till a long
time after dark;
She's been buyin' rugs, and gettin' a new, costly
switch to wear,
And she takes a cab whenever she goes callin'
She has bought herself a dimund, and you ought
to see it blaze,
Ma's as cheerful as a robin — they have given pa a
Sister's busy gettin' dresses that'll cost an awful
And the hats that she's been buyin' are the very
She's to go abroad this summer with some people
named the Cooks;
Is she happy? Well, I guess so! You can see it
by her looks;
She goes hummin' songs and dancin' and in forty
Lets us know that she is cheerful since they've
given pa a raise.
12 TEN WISE MEN
Pa still works the same as ever, and he's smokin*
Wears the suit he got last summer, and I guess he's
still in debt;
Anyway, he starts off early, and comes home
fagged out at night,
And his forehead's gettin' wrinkled and his hair
is turnin' white;
Can't, somehow, help feelin' sorry as I sit and
watch him gaze
With a vacant stare at nothin'. Yes, they've given
pa a raise.
This is one of Riser's more serious poems:
THE MEANING OF A SMILE.
We speak in many tongues, we men
Who do the work that men must do
With sword and spade and plow and pen —
My language may be strange to you;
I may not know when you complain,
Nor comprehend if you revile;
Your preaching may be all in vain,
But we are brothers when we smile.
The Malay may not understand
When I explain to him my creed;
The Mongol, all unmoved and bland
May think that I am mad, indeed ;
To them the words I use may be
A jargon fashioned to beguile;
But they extend their hands to me
And know my meaning when I smile.
We speak in many tongues, we men
Who do the work that must be done,
And if, perchance, some morning when
The first beam slanted from the sun
A savage faced you where you woke
Upon the farthest South Sea isle,
He might not know what words you spoke
But he would understand your smile.
AND SOME MORE 213
The spoken word may not convey
The slightest meaning to our minds,
But from the coldest Lapland bay
To where Magellan's channel winds,
From Ganges to the Amazon,
From frozen Yukon to the Nile,
And from La Plata to the Don,
There is one meaning for a smile.
In response to the author's letter asking Mi.
Kiser for something concerning his start in life,
"I was born in Pennsylvania, and what educa-
tion I have was obtained in little red school houses
there and in Ohio. After the publication of my
first book of verses a good old lady who saw a
copy of it somewhere or somehow went to my
mother for the purpose of finding out about me.
" 'When,' she asked, 'did you discover that your
son possessed this gift?'
" T think,' my mother replied, 'that it was when
he was about twelve years old. One day he fell
out of a cherry tree and struck on his head. We
noticed after that that he seemed to be different
from the rest of the children.'
"It was not until I was nearly twenty-five, how-
ever, that I began to give expression to my poetic
feelings. I was working on a. Cleveland paper
when I one day wrote and handed to the editor
"Where snow had drifted o'er the land
I saw a sweet young mother stand;
A babe was lying on her breast;
Its little form
Against herself she closely pressed
To keep it warm.
"In later years I passed once more
And saw her at a cottage door;
A boy was lying on her knee;
Her look was grim,
And, suffering Joshua, how she
Was warming him."
214 TEN WISE MEN
"The editor said it was hot stuff, and on the
strength of it I was ordered to attend a prize fight
which was to be pulled off in the outskirts of the
city that night.
" 'I've been wondering all day,' said the editor,
'how we might have this fight written up in some
original manner. You go and write it up in
"I did it, and was appointed sporting editor.
For an entire season I reported baseball games in
verse, and, as far as I know, I was the pioneer in
that line of endeavor.
"Before becoming a reporter I was a telegraph
operator. I might be a telegraph operator now,
or the president of some great railroad system, if
I had not gone to sleep while on duty one night
and made it necessary for the despatcher to hold
an express train for three hours on a siding when
the track was clear for two hundred miles ahead.
"My sleepiness was due to the fact that I had,
during the hours when I should have been rest-
ing, roamed through pleasant places with a lovely
girl, who lost interest in me after they had sent
me word that I was out of a job.
"Thus we see that the success of a great man
may be due in a large measure to chance."
HE WOEKS OUT HIS THINK.
Now and then Nixon Waterman leaves his home
at Arlington Heights, Boston, to run over to Chi-
cago, where, for many years, he was a joy to the
"Old Guard" of the Press Club. Between times
he sends a cheery message in verse that goes upon
the bulletin board, and from thence goes to the
hearts of all there that know him.
Waterman is a poet-humorist who was educated,
for the most part, in Western newspaper offices.
He was born at Newark, Illinois, November 12,
1859, went to school at Creston, Iowa, wrote
verses and editorial humorous sketches on Omaha
newspapers several years, then Chicago news-
papers some more years and removed to Boston
AND SOME MORE 215
in 1895, where he has since worked industriously
as contributor to magazines, reader and editor for
a publishing house, and has done much in the way
of public readings, from his own poetry and
humorous writings, and delivered lectures on
humorous-literary-philosophical topics. He is a
member of Boston Chapter Actors' Christian Al-
liance, Authors' Club of Boston and Press Club of
Chicago. His books are: "A Book of Verses,"
"In Merry Mood," and "Boy Wanted." He also
compiled and edited "Ben King's Verse." He sent
me his "Book of Verses" at a country retreat in
Indiana, in the summer of 1900, and it brought
this to the press:
"Out and away from the city; down among the
Hoosier hills; under the trees and where the grass
is luxuriant; along the roads that are bordered
with runaway wild roses; on a hillside where from
below comes the droning workword of the plow-
man in the corn; amid a' continuous concert of
feathered songsters; the "I-chee-wee, I-chee-wee,"
of the field-lark; the "Ah-me, Ah-me," of the far-
away turtle-dove; the "Bob-white, Bob-white, are
your cherries ripe?" of the quail, and one knows
why Nixon Waterman, the good, jolly poet, writes
such things as this:
" 'June and the skies brimming over
With seas of the tenderest blue;
June, and the bloom of the clover,
Heavy with honey and dew;
June, and the reeds and the rushes,
Slender and lithesome and long;
June, and the larks and the thrushes
Singing their happiest song.'
"Then today the rain comes. The corn needed
it. All day long the world is wet. There are frag-
rant odors from the dampness of it ail. Night
comes and the winds sough among the trees. The
stars are gone and you can almost gather the dark-
ness in your hand, as a black drapery; push it
216 TEN WISE MEN
aside as you open the door and let the light flood
out into it. You shut out the darkness and the
rain, fall into an easy chair, under the light with
good old 'Nick's' book open before you, and you
read as if it had come in with you:
" 'Ah, the drip, drip, drip, of the rain, the rain,
The drip, drip, drip, of the rain;
The sweet, sad, song the whole night long
Is sung in my drowsy brain.
In a dream I rest in the old home nest,
And my mother comes again,
As came she oft, with a step as soft
As the drip, drip, drip, of the rain, the rain,
The drip, drip, drip, of the rain.'
"But in all there is cheeriness. Waterman has
no other way but that. He sees the pleasant,
happy, jolly side of life, and he writes as if there
were no such things as worry, sorrow, unrequit-
ance, pain, misfortune, and to such a man there is
"Trouble runs off of him like water from a duck's
"What is more, and to the good, Waterman's
poetry brings that condition to others. It is a
draught from Lethe, and it brings rest and forget-
fulness of care. It is wholesome and one is the
purer for it. It is jolly and it beguiles you of your
smiles. It is manly and it braces. It is sincere
and you believe it.
" 'Boy Wanted' is Waterman's latest book. It is
quaintly made and contains a world of wisdom.
For boys — and even for boys of larger growth — it
is a wonderful up-lifter. On its front cover is an
epigramatic quartrain that is particularly typical
of Nixon Waterman:
"'Do not loiter or shirk;
Do not falter or shrink;
Just think out your work,
And work out your think!"'"
AND SOME MORE 217
LAKGE MAN LITTLE.
In Cuba during the war of the United States
with Spain, then in the troubles with the Phil-
ippines haunting the firing-line, and in previous
experiences in an Indian uprising, Richard Henry-
Little had won fame as a war correspondent. Be-
sides he had not only satisfied his employers in
getting the news, but he had captured his readers
with the highly entertaining manner in which he
had presented the details. In short, he had won
the name of being a humorist who was "different,"
as well as that of being a thorough newspaper man.
Hence, at the beginning of hostilities between Rus-
sia and Japan, Little was sent to the far East to
report the war. Being one of the star members
of the Chicago Press Club, and one of its vice-
presidents, he was given permission by that body
to travel in foreign lands. During his absence
he was twice captured on the battle-field, first by
the Russians and then by the Japanese. The last
named people informed him that it would be good
for his health to go home, and, taking that advice,
he arrived at the main office of the Chicago News
about the close of the war.
It was in April, 1905, that a newspaper para-
graph was printed, worded as follows:
"Dick Little, who has been over in Manchuria
looking after the war for the News, and who ad-
vised the Jap generals for a while and then went
over and advised the Russians, until the Japs got
alarmed and captured him, will be at home on the
26th, and the Press Club will give him a recep-
tion dinner. The receptive members are in train-
ing for the affair, and Richard will be himself
Later on the following report of the dinner al-
luded to was published in a New York periodical,
of which this writer was the Chicago correspond-
TEN WISE MEN
RICHARD HENRY LITTLE J
AND SOME MORE 219
"The home-coming supper given to Richard Lit-
tle, the war correspondent, at the Press Club last
Wednesday night, was one of the most brilliant
affairs that have ever been pulled off by this or-
ganization, so famous for its unique and interest-
"Little and his great Russian beard and Cos-
sack overcoat, arrived on a belated train Wednes-
day instead of Tuesday, the Rocky mountains hav-
ing moved to some extent onto the right of way
of the Union Pacific railroad, thus making Little
and his travel companions, George Ade and C. C.
Kent, twenty-four hours tardy. This movement of
the mountains is supposed in some quarters to
have been in deference to the opinion of Prof.
James Paul Goode, of the University of Chicago,
who, as noted before in these letters, had inveighed
against those swellings on the backbone of the con-
tinent as deleterious to the mental, physical and
social welfare of this republic's population.
"Anyhow, Little, Ade and Kent walked for some
rocky miles around the impediment and hit a
train on the eastern slope that brought them in
twenty-four hours late but all together.
"At the banquet that night there were four
tables the full length of the great dining hall and
one across the top, for the accommodation of Pres-
ident Carr, the toastmaster, Little, Ade, Kent and
the other specialists. All of these tables were
occupied in every seat by as warm a crowd of jolly
good fellows as ever found a quail's wishbone.
The hall was decorated with American, Jap and
Russ flags, walls, chandeliers, windows and doors,
and a huge umbrella of the oriental style was sus-
pended in a way to prevent the rays of laudation
from beating down too fiercely upon the head of
"After the guests were seated Little arrived and
bent his way to his place, amid cheers and hand
clapping that would have gone well to the music of
220 TEN WISE MEN
'See, the Conquering Hero Comes.' Possibly the
musicians played that, but if they did nobody
knew it. Something more strenuous than the clat-
ter of the average orchestra would have been
necessary to rise above the sound of the plaudits
made otherwise. There were such remarks as:
'How tall would he be if he straightened up?'
'What do you think of them whiskers?' 'This
thing fits him,' and amid it all a line of butchers
came in bringing the fatted calf and then there
was something doing. While the high-priced
meat was being consumed individual singers rose
here and there at brief intervals with a verse of a
jolly song, cablegrams from the mikado and the
czar, and from Jap girls and other inquiring
friends came rapidly, and there was fun alive.
"The menu having been wrecked, the program
of toasts, with interjections, proceeded. The
speeches were short and bright and the poems of
the occasion were apt and witty. Little's responses
were simply characteristic of one of the most
unique humorists of the decade. Of course it
would be impractical to attempt a detailed ac-
count of the affair in these notes, but here is the
page from the printed bill at the table that indi-
cated what was to be expected beyond the menu,
as to the 'formal proceedings':
" 'Homer J. Carr Chairman
John T. McCutcheon
Welcome to Dick Little, O hayo! sdravstvuite!
Response by Dick Little.
Wilbur D. Nesbit Ode to Dick. Uta Kniga
Capt. S. B. Darby, U.S.N, (retired), command-
er of the Dorothea, Illinois Naval Reserve
The Fawan and the Navy. Jokisen Parokhodi
Response by Rear Admiral Richard Henry Little
Adj. Gen. Henry Barrett Chamberlain, 1st
Reg. I. N. G. (retired)
The Military Lessons of the War. Rikigun.
AND SOME MORE 221
Response by Field Marshal R. Henry Little.
Dr. Hugh Blake Williams
The Red Cross and the Sanitary Service
Response by Surgeon General Richard H. Little.
Prof. Cho Yo . . Japan and the Japanese. Nippon
Response by Baron Ri Hen Littleyama
Trumbull White .. Russia and the Russians. Russi
Response by Dikovsky Henschski Littleoff
Duncan M. Smith
. . .The Long Trail. Nagai-michi Mahlo oolitsa
E. R. Pritchard Prison Life. Roya Tiourmahs
Response by Convict Little, No. 4-11-44.
First Aid to the Injured. Taski-tomodachi
Response by Dick.
S'ayonara 30 Dobraya Notch.' "
Having been requested to furnish this author, in
his own hand-writing, a brief synopsis of his life,
Mr. Little supplied the following information in
less than average newspaper type-written "copy":
"Richard Henry Little. Born in LeRoy, 111. Le-
Roy is a beautiful little city almost unknown to
travelers for two or three scores of years, but since
the elevator has burned down it can now be dis-
tinctly seen from the train with the naked eye,
except when a passing hay wagon temporarily
obstructs the lovely panorama.
"A memorial tablet can now be seen in front of
the old brick house where the subject of our sketch
was born. The tablet reads:
" 'Bill's Shaving Parlor.
Shaves ten cents.
Haircuts fifteen cents.'
TEN WISE MEN
"When Mr. Little was five years old his father,
Dr. J. Little moved Richard and the rest of the
family to Bloomington.
"This and the night Dickinson's barn burned
down are still remembered as the greatest events
in the history of LeRoy. Nelse Humprey, the
, t , -si,if '-
Curse them ! They are not
following me plans.
poet laureate of LeRoy, gave birth to an inspira-
tional poem commemorating the second of these
" 'The cats now have their tails unpulled,
There's no can tied to old dog Tray;
It's ungodly quiet here in Leroy
Since Doc Little took his kid away."
AND SOME MORE 223
Mr. Little finished his education at the Wes-
leyan University at Bloomington with unusual
honors, it being at the unanimous request of the
entire faculty and the board of trustees.
Mr. Little has been through four wars, but
he declares the most harrowing moments of his
life were those spent on the lecture platform.
At Vedersburg, Indiana, he had an afternoon
date. There were a few people in the audience.
The chairman of the meeting came up while
Dick was getting ready to go on. "Say, Mister
Little," he said, "I'm 'fraid you won't git a very
big audience. There's a revival across the street,
a funeral in the next block, and a saloon opening,
with free lunch and trimmings down town."
"It was a hard proposition," said Little, "the
only people in Vedersburg that came to see me
were those who didn't smoke or drink, or eat free
lunch, and had no soul to save and had a grouch
on the deceased. Seven all told, and three of them
wanted their money back when they found I didn't
play a fiddle and sing coon songs."
The hardest luck Little said he ever struck was
in a town out in Iowa. "I told the audience the
funniest original stories imaginable. I know they
were funny, because I had pretty near laughed
myself to death when I heard them. But the audi-
ence sat like they were petrified. I worked my-
self almost into a frenzy. I said I would bring a
smile to those stone faces or die in the attempt.
Useless. Finally when all hope had fled a man
down in the front row suddenly gave vent to a
subdued 'haw haw' at one of my stories. De-
siring to punish the rest of my hearers I said
with terrible irony, 'I am surprised that any one
in this audience will so far forget himself as to
laugh at a funny story. I earnestly hope that this
unseemly action will not occur again.' Then I
"The chairman of the meeting tiptoed off the
stage and came around in front and, walking up
224 TEN WISE MEN
to the man who had laughed, tapped him on the
shoulder and said sternly, 'Young man, if you
hain't got no more sense than to disturb the
meetin' you kin git out.' And they put him out.
But he was in luck they didn't tar and feather him
or burn him at the stake."
At a Chautauqua down in Illinois, Little lectured
one Saturday night. The committee wanted to get
their money's worth, so they said that inasmuch
as he would not leave until Sunday afternoon, and
that he would be boarding free all this time at the
expense of the association, would he mind preach-
ing at the church services Sunday morning.
"Hell! no," said Dick, "preaching is my long
The committee decided to get somebody else.
Little was elected president of the Chicago Press
Club in January, 1908, and has served that or-
ganization with ability and distinction up to the
time of going to press.
HE WENT ALL THE WAY.
In the neighborhood of Madison and Sangamon
streets, Chicago, when that was away out west, but
is now the heart of an "inconceivable Babylon,"
and at a time — May 30, 1856 — when Chicago was
so infantile as not to worry about its milk, Prank
Berry Welch set up his first howl. He was so can-
did about it that some folks think that was why
he was named Frank. Immediately thereafter
the dove of peace looked about once or twice, in
a sudden and yet timid way, then lifted herself
from the perch and sought recognition and a
quieter abiding place in the distinct elsewhere.
In seven short years this juvenile had developed
a disposition to look into things, and a phrenolo-
gist was called in for advice as to what he' should
be tied to, permanently, he having been, up to that
time, tied for the most part to a bed-post. The
AND SOME MORE 225
phrenologist gave him a very fair character, the
parents having endeavored to bias the professor
with a liberal contribution to his science and needs,
stimulated by both pride and fear. The man of
science had overlooked Frank's abnormal bump
of inquisitiveness, which led the lad to try his
hand at discovering what was the matter with the
hall clock, almost before the professor had turned
the corner. Frank "fixed" the clock, but not so
surreptitiously or successfully as he had hoped.
Then his mother "fixed" him — for cold weather.
He remembers that he was plenty warm for some
time thereafter, carrying about with him a base-
Seven more years elapsed, during which time
Frank gathered flowers of knowledge at school,
without taxing his time for ball practice and such
diversions, more than was quite convenient. He
tried a number of public schools — also the teachers.
His friends were many, even then, for he was
forever giving and forgiving, and that makes
friends, while the sun is up.
Among the boys at the Franklin school, on the
North Side, with whom Frank kept up a never-
ending Halloween, April Fool Day, general hot
time and hurrah, were Theodore Brentano, now
judge of a high court; Frederick Hild, public li-
brarian; Robert E. Burke, prominent politician;
Fred Busse, mayor of Chicago, and others, now
more or less distinguished. Frank remembers,
hilariously, that one time the embryo judge had
come into possession of one of those old-fashioned
"sprinkling-pot" Allen revolvers and in a discus-
sion between them the coming jurist flourished
the weapon in such a dangerous way that Frank
feared Teddy was going to hit him with it. Noth-
ing came of it, however — not even a sprinkling.
After fourteen, for two years, Frank lived in
Mississippi, where he says he "learned to pick cot-
ton and 'chiggers,' hoe corn and train morning
glories, tamp ties and tree "possums." Here also
226 TEN WISE MEN
he acquired the quinine habit, as an antidote to
the balmy bottom-land breezes. This was before
the capsulian era and he had to come back to
Chicago to de-cinchonize and leave off his Peruvian
bark. Altogether a bitter experience. The chills
and fever helped him to shake the South and he
landed among the ashes of the O'Learyian episode
of October, 1871. To be an express driver was a
gooa thing then and he commanded a team for two
years, acquiring a stable knowledge of etiquette
and a "hossy" way that was quite fetching — at a
dollar a load.
Then, for a year, Welch pervaded the upper
peninsula of Michigan, on Little Bay de Noquet
and the White Fish River, in the employ of a
lumbering company as clerk, scaler, etc., doing the
greater part of his work by proxy while he "toted"
a gun through the woods or trolled the fishing
grounds. Out of it all Frank acquired a valuable
stock of lumber lore and lumber-jack eccentrics
that he has made profitable use of since.
Later, Welch returned to Chicago and went to
work for the A. N. Kellogg Newspaper company
as assistant proofreader, editor, printer, stereo-
typer, ad. solicitor, janitor and others, until 1883,
when he took his aggregation of domestic goods,
gods and angels and went to Los Angeles, Cali-
fornia. There he set type, picked fruit, juggled
groceries and wrote humorous sketches and verses
for the Times and the Porcupine under the pen
name of "Pancho," making a local hit. But it was
altogether "hard-sleddin' " and he came back to
Chicago and to the Kellogg place again. During
this last time in the "boiler plate" factory, sixteen
or eighteen years more, he did everything in the
way of miscellaneous literature and found time
to write hundreds of stories, poems and essays for
magazines and humorous publications throughout
the country, among them the New York Life, Times,
Drake's Magazine and Detroit Free Press. For the
last three years Welch has labored acceptably as a
AND SOME MORE 227
writer of pleasant literature for the American
Lumberman. He takes pride and delight in his
two sons, one of whom is a successful business
man and the other a sergeant-major in the regular
Franc B. Wilkie, the first president of the Chi-
cago Press Club, of which organization Frank is a
remarkably popular member, was an admiring
friend of Welch and Mr. Wilkie, just before his
death, expressed a special desire to have Frank
at his bedside. Welch has many affectionate let-
ters from Mr. Wilkie that he cherishes as among
his heart treasures.
All in all, Frank Welch is a brilliant wit, a poet
of the "born" kind, a good citizen, a truthful and
brave man, a faithful friend and an affectionate
and indulgent father and husband.
Following are two of Mr. Welch's pieces of
verse exhibiting the serious and humorous sides
of his nature:
EQUAL IN THE GBAVE.
Croesus is dead; remove his robe
And strip him of his gold;
The reaper grim has come for him,
His form lies still and cold.
Tne crimson stream has ceased to flow,
The haughty head is lying low,
He's done with worldly pomp and show,
Here rests his pulseless mold.
Upon yon bier a pauper lies,
His soul has taken flight;
His senseless clay wears no display —
Ah, 'tis a sorry sight.
His unsuccessful course is run,
With tribulation he is done,
His perfect rest has just begun —
The rest of death's long night.
228 TEN WISE MEN
FRANK B. WELCH.
AND SOME MORE 229
Lay this one in his marble tomb
And yon one in the ground;
O'er this a stately shaft uprear,
O'er that a simple mound.
But which shall sleep the sweeter sleep?
Which first shall break the silence deep?
Ah! they are equals in Death's keep
Till Gabriel's trump shall sound.
THE EOUT OF BUSTLING RUBE
Or the end of a Hooting, Tooting, Shooting Terror
of the Texas Plains.
Rustling Rube was a bold, bad man,
Oh, a howling wolf was he,
And when he shook his gory locks
The bravest of men would flee.
With his guns in hand he would scourge the land
On the Texas side of the Rio Grande,
And never a soul would bar the way
When Rube was out for a little play.
Swooping down like a cyclone fell
On a town he'd pounce, and when
He struck a place he'd make it hot
For the common run of men;
With his awful roar he would yell for gore,
Tho' he swam in blood he would howl for more,
And never a one would say him nay
For they all liked Rube to have his way.
Riding into a railway town
This terror to men one day
Happened to spy a tenderfoot
Strolling along his way.
With a fiendish yell he came down pell-mell
^nd on that innocent tenderfoot fell,
And never a hand was raised, alas:
To check the horror that came to pass.
230 TEN WISE MEN
Chaos reigned for a moment's space,
A sickening thud, and then
The tumult suddenly passed away
And quietness came again.
But, alack-a-day! on the ground there lay
A form that was nothing but pulseless clay,
And never a tear at all was shed
O'er the stricken man that lay there dead.
Rustling Rube had passed up his claim —
The earth was no longer his —
They said the ugly plug had gone
To the place where sinners sizz.
Ah, a sad mistake did the rustler make —
'Twas a football player he sought to break.
They laid the terror where trantlers creep,
Ana they loved the man who put him to sleep.
Frank Welch's great-grandfather, John Arch-
dale — Yorkshireman — and his family came to Chi-
cago, over the old sand trail, from New York in
1836, his first place of residence being at the cor-
ner of Randolph and La Salle streets, on the
Court-house lot. From that spot Archdale's large
family spread out, settling in Illinois, Michigan
They are Welch's "side line."
There are a great many more of these bright
humorists that I know, and whom it would be a
pleasure to write about, but this history must stop
somewhere, and this seems to be an inviting spot.
There may be those who will entertain a feeling
of resentment that they have not been exploited
herein. This might be painful to the author if
he should learn of the individual cases. However,
that might be neutralized by the knowledge that
there are others who will be pleased for the seem-
AND SOME MORE 231
To the philosopher obscurity is a comfort —
when one can afford it.
The general reader — I was going to say "the
disinterested reader," but shall hope there will be
none such — may wonder that all those who have
been written of in this work show, here, no dis-
agreeable characteristics. It is easy enough to
explain that. I am stalk blind to the faults of my
friends — if they have any. Besides,
"There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
It hardly behooves any of us
To speak ill of the rest of us."
WILLIAM LIGHTFOOT VISSCHER.
THE MAN WHO DID IT,
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